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Free summer camp helps fight summer brain drain

Parent volunteers host fifth year of Bullis Booster Camp for low-income students

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.

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14 people like this
Posted by Deborah Kahn
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 28, 2017 at 9:45 pm

What a wonderful experience for these students! It's a shame that LASD does not donate the use of their facility for such a worthwhile cause when other commercial, for-profits are so willing to step up for our most vulnerable population.

10 people like this
Posted by LASD Resident
a resident of another community
on Jul 29, 2017 at 9:37 am

The Bullis Boosters Camp is an amazing endeavor open to all low income students in Los Altos and Mountain View, but how come everyone but LASD is donating their time and money?

4 people like this
Posted by LASD parent
a resident of another community
on Jul 29, 2017 at 2:26 pm

LASD hosts summer school from 3 days after school gets out for over a month. It is primarily for low income students and it is free of charge. This year it was held at Almond. It goes from 8:30am-2:45pm. So it's not as if the district doesn't do anything for struggling students.

They even take kids who don't "qualify" for it based on academic standards if you ask. 2 of my kids were recommended for summer school and when we signed all 3 up they said they'd absolutely take all 3.

5 people like this
Posted by ResidentSince1982
a resident of another community
on Jul 29, 2017 at 2:53 pm

ResidentSince1982 is a registered user.

Oh well, LASD would probably say their rental rates are a bargain, and they probably are. Its especially good this year that kids from Mountain View can attend a summer school closer to their homes. Castro School was all torn up for construction and you wouldn't see any summer school there this summer! A very few low income kids attend Almond School, and these are mostly from Mountain View. It's about 40 kids total that are low income at Almond these days, down from 60 a couple years back. Although LASD is their school district, there is no neighborhood school for these kids, and the charter school is the closest LASD school to them. On the other hand, Castro and Mistral have 10 times as many low income kids.

5 people like this
Posted by Mazeltov!
a resident of The Crossings
on Jul 30, 2017 at 8:04 am

Thank you Bullis for putting on this camp. Such an awesome thing that the sponsors like Lulu's, Linden Tree, Kiwanis, LACF and all the other private donors step up for this camp. Tremendous what these parent volunteers have been doing summer after summer for these kids. Great to see some parts of Los Altos working to support those less fortunate. Ha ha - hopefully LASD got good rental payments - money never sleeps in this area.

3 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 31, 2017 at 5:44 pm

The target students of this program - are also the "Target" students of the LCFF (Local Control Funding Formula) that BCS, LASD, and MVWSD are accountable to. Each of these students, 'should' get proportionally 20% more for their education program based on their higher needs. In other words - the extra money should be spent "primarily proportional" to the number of Target students in a school.

It is extremely hard to track what schools/districts are doing this! But this BCS program, especially staffed by volunteers who understand education, can definitely help. Research by the CA "Summer Matters" consortium, and the Rand Corp. on other national summer programs, seems to show that only 'intense' math centric programs have any lasting and statistically significant academic impact. Should MVWSD and LASD invest in a study of the results of this program? (Student's T Test, it doesn't make a difference?) This would be a perfect example of Data Driven Decision making in local education. I still keep up the Hope! Invest more Public Money in programs with statistically significant academic results, "sunset" those that fail The Test.

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