This episode features a conversation with Alec Lee and Terrence Riley. Alec is co-founder and CEO of the 35-year-old Aim High summer learning program for middle school youth. Terrence is an alumnus of the program, and now Vice President of Programs for the organization. Aim High offers a mix of academic classes and interest-driven enrichment activities for middle school students during the summers leading into, during and transitioning out of the middle grades. Like other summer learning programs in the summer of 2020, Aim High needed to pivot from its traditional in-person model to a virtual one, called Aim High at Home, which had some advantages that the program intends to keep going forward even as they steadily transition back to in-person programming.
Alec, Terrence and Jason talk about the genesis of the Aim High program, the specific components of the experience, the types of students who participate, how the organization recruits and trains its staff, which includes local teachers-in-training and also alumni of the program, and the outcomes they are seeing across academic, social and emotional domains as well as the students’ transition into high school and even longer term. They then go into the pivot that Aim High had to make to deliver programming during the pandemic, creating Aim High at Home, how they shifted the levels of emphasis on different aspects of the programming to build belonging and community, and how they ramped up training for summer educators. They also address what they anticipate this upcoming summer will look like and its outsized importance given COVID recovery efforts, and what the future of summer learning looks like longer term.
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