On June 25th, Aim High opened the doors to its newest campus in Richmond. Nearly 70 middle school students were greeted by 27 staff members eager to welcome them into the Aim High community.

Leading the charge are two site directors, Jesús Galindo and Elóra Henderson. Dynamic and passionate educators, they advocated for years to bring Aim High to their neighborhood. And after much persistence, their repeating question: “When can we bring Aim High to Richmond?” was finally answered.

Richmond boasts a hearty motto: “The City of Pride and Purpose,” though the area has limited opportunities for young people in the summer. Before Aim High’s expansion, students commuted into Oakland and even San Francisco in order to experience the magic of summer learning. Jesús and Elóra (who have taught at Aim High for many summers) recognized the untapped potential in Richmond and knew they had to to bring Aim High closer to home for dozens of their students.

Behind the scenes, Terrence Riley, Director of Admissions and Student Opportunities at Aim High, managed the Richmond initiative. Under his guidance, program staff approached West Contra Costa Unified School District superintendent Matt Duffy and Montalvin Elementary School principal Katherine Acosta-Verprauskus, who both encouraged the expansion.

After Aim High procured the necessary funds and deepened partnerships in Western Contra Costa county, the Richmond campus was planned to launch in summer 2018. Jesús and Elóra infused their dedication to the community into every step of the planning process. They recruited committed faculty who mirrored the diversity of the student population, and they dove into community-building and restorative practices to anchor the site. After tireless planning and thoughtful preparation, the students finally arrived.

Site Director Elóra Henderson, right (blue dress), concludes closing circle with high fives for students as they head home for the day

During week one at Aim High Richmond, students learned about Aim High’s CORE values–Community, Opportunity, Respect, and High Expectations–and they answered short survey questions about what community means to them. The staff used the survey results to bolster an authentic culture that honors the voices of their young people. “[The results said that] students feel they belong when they’re celebrated, when adults are listening, and when they feel cared for and supported,” shared Student Support Specialist Emilio Ortega, another longtime Aim High educator.

The faculty at Aim High Richmond are deeply attuned to the needs of their middle schoolers. Together, staff and students lean into the questions (designed by Ortega and inspired by restorative practices): “How do we relate? How do we restore? How do we repair?” The answer is etched in the city itself: One prideful and purposeful day at a time. 

Aim High is grateful for our partners who are supporting our expansion in Richmond: Thomas J. Long Foundation, Louis L. Borick Foundation, Silver Giving Foundation, Irene S. Scully Family Foundation, Fullerton Family Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation and The Dean and Margaret Lesher Foundation.

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