Dozens of Mountain View kids left lazy summer days behind, instead taking part in a fast-paced free summer camp hosted by parent volunteers at Bullis Charter School.
The Bullis Boosters Camp, which wraps up its fifth summer camp on Friday, gives kids from low-income families a chance to experience summer camp, go on field trips to places like Google's campus and the Los Altos History Museum, and take part in science and engineering experiments. On Tuesday morning, kids in bright orange shirts packed the tables outside the Los Altos charter school's portable classrooms with razor-sharp focus on one of the day's big tasks: measuring out the ingredients needed to make top-notch muffins.
The camp has double in size since its inaugural year, and almost of the children come from Mountain View, said Grace Yang, a longtime parent volunteer overseeing the camp during her vacation this summer. Students are eligible for the camp if they qualify for free and reduced lunch during the school year.
The camp relies not only on parents and accredited teachers, but also 17 teens -- many from Mountain View and Los Altos high schools -- who play the role of "counselors in training" and guide children through activities. It's a volunteer gig with an application process and a tuition fee, Yang said, and yet it still has a wait list.
As of last year, the counselor program has its own director and built-in curriculum, and it can be a learning experience for both the campers and the counselors, Yang said. She said teens will often hear "heart-breaking" stories from the children about living in a broken home, or in living situations where two or three families are living in the same apartment.
Kristen Julien, a third-grade teacher at Castro Elementary who is one of four teachers helping out this year, said the 61 kids attending the camp this year come from schools all over Mountain View. She said teachers like herself are given quite a bit of latitude to create lessons for the week, and that the pace makes it feel a whole lot more like a summer camp than a summer school.
"It's a different level and a different kind of speed, and the kids have a lot of fun," Julien said. "It's a great program all around."
On top of all the volunteer hours, the camp relies on sponsors in order to provide the food, the clothes, the supplies and the money to run the camp, with support coming from the Los Altos Community Foundation and the Kiwanis Club of Los Altos as well as companies including Linden Tree Books and LuLu's Mexican Food. Part of the money goes towards renting the space from the Los Altos School District to host the camp, Yang said.