Aim High is committed to supporting our community during these unprecedented times. In March, more than six million California public school children were out of school. Many of these students have limited access to educational resources at home, widening the achievement and opportunity gaps even further.

Summer is our chance to address these divides so that our middle schoolers return to school with confidence, skills and excitement.

Right now, 100+ educators are teaching hundreds of middle schoolers in virtual classrooms for five weeks of Aim High at Home. Students are learning about STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), reading an array of short stories, discussing issues in their lives, and dreaming big for their futures. One of these educators is Matthew Becerra, an Aim High site director who is a history teacher during the school year. Below, Matthew shares some important insights about community, connection, learning and CORE values.

How can students stay connected to themselves and their communities right now?

I know it’s challenging, especially because home environments are not equitable by any means. Finding a routine, a space, a hobby—something that keeps you close to who you are in a non-pandemic society—is really important. The teachers and educators in your life understand that school can be your safe space, and we know you’re bursting at the seams wanting to be with one another. Like you, we weren’t prepared for this pandemic, and we are trying to create ways to help you feel connected (like small group video chats).

This is an opportunity to lean into your community. When I talk about community with students I, we talk about both your family and also your “chosen family,” the people you choose to surround yourself with. This is an opportunity for students to advocate and ask for help from a mentor, a sibling, a friend. Reach out on a regular basis and make sure that community is still available.

How can students learn about themselves and the world in the face of massive disruptions to schedules, routines, and plans?

This is a time for students to really reflect and do some self-observation. When are you most productive – 8:00 a.m. or 3:00 p.m.? What makes you happiest throughout the day? What do you miss about school that you didn’t expect to miss? Use this as a time to reflect on your individual strengths and weaknesses and areas where you want to improve yourself.

Because there’s so much uncertainty, this is a fresh start for you and a lot of us. How do you want to reset yourself in school? How are you getting ready now to prepare for that fresh opportunity?

How can students embrace Aim High’s CORE values during this time?

We talked earlier about the importance of Community and the Opportunity to learn new skills. Stay busy, pick up hobbies, position yourself to adapt and succeed. It’s really tough for middle school students with so much energy to be cooped up inside.

This is also a time to Respect boundaries. Respect that people are getting stir-crazy and try to be forgiving. It’s extremely important to be there for others but also for ourselves. Recognize that it’s a weird time, and not everyone is going to need the same things to get through it.

Have high Expectations for yourself in terms of taking care of siblings, pets, reaching out to friends, and being your best self day in and day out when there’s so much uncertainty. The only thing we can do is move forward. We need to put our best foot forward and adapt.

What do you tell Aim High at Home students right now?

I tell them that there are going to be better days, we’ll be okay, and we are definitely a community. If they need to talk to me more frequently or if they want help getting in touch with other teachers—anything we can provide, we’re here for them.

Just because Aim High in physical form is on pause this year, it doesn’t mean the love, the community, and the intentions are gone. If there is anything we can do for them within these social distancing parameters, we will.

Thank you to Young Leaders Board Member Kat Clark for conducting the interview and writing this blog post!

For more information about this year’s summer programming, visit Aim High at Home.

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