Education buffs and school board members celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Santa Barbara Education Foundation at its headquarters Thursday night. The foundation, which brought in $2.2 million last year, fiscally supports several student programs, including Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY), music and arts programs, and summer school. Last year, 408 high school students took summer classes to get ahead, and 173 were on scholarships.
After giving a nod to several programs tied to the foundation, attendees listened to a presentation about The Academy, an intervention program at Dos Pueblos High School that seeks out kids who are struggling and are at risk of not graduating. The Academy was the brainchild of DP teacher Kelly Choi, who was named the county’s teacher of the year in 2013.
“There was no school for me [in ninth grade],” said high school student Antonna, who gave a presentation with Choi on Thursday night. “I didn’t even know what my teachers’ names were.” Antonna’s mother had recently passed away, and she was struggling at home. She would get in fights with her peers. “I almost did drugs, but I stopped myself because I was scared of needles,” she said.
Antonna eventually landed in The Academy, where students travel through high school with the same math, English, and history classes and teachers for three years. At first, Antonna hated it. But she grew to love her teachers. “What we were doing is creating a family environment,” said Choi. “Everyone is angling for where they are in this place.”
The discipline problems among 30 students dropped from 430 issues — ranging from drugs to classroom disruption — to nine after three years in the program. On average, their GPAs increased from almost all Fs to close to a 3.0 average. And the program takes the students out of remedial classes and into college prep courses. “In our first round when it was just the teachers selling the program, half the students said no,” said Choi. “The second round when the students invited the students, almost all of them said yes.”
Other notable accomplishments of the foundation include include bringing millions of dollars to enrich music, science, and art. The foundation also funds the Mobile Waterfront, Keep the Beat, Westside Projects, and Youth Violence Intervention & Prevention, among others.