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Sunday, November 18 , 2018, 1:25 am | Fog/Mist 52º


United Way of Santa Barbara County’s Fun in the Sun Camp Keeps Kids Learning Over Summer

Free six-week educational program ends with a day of games at El Camino Elementary School for the nearly 300 students who signed up this year


Several hundred Santa Barbara County students kicked off their summer vacation by exercising their brains and fine-tuning their educational skills, thanks to the United Way of Santa Barbara County’s Fun in the Sun program.

Nearly 300 children participated in the six-week program, which aims to reduce summer learning loss and narrow the achievement gap for at-risk students in third grade to 12th grade.

“I like learning even though I’m out of school,” said La Cumbre Junior High School student Monica Bueno.

The 13-year-old came to the free camp to study her “favorite subject, math, and make friends.”

Each summer, the program offers children a fun environment with a focus on literacy, science, technology, engineering, arts, math, service learning projects, character education, financial literacy and educational field trips.

“It’s a learning program, but we try to disguise the learning as fun,” said Luis Chaidez, the nonprofit’s project manager. “It’s great to have the kids coming every year and progressing academically.”

Fun in the Sun program staff recognize the importance of making time to play and having valuable educational opportunities, such as their Olympic Games hosted at El Camino Elementary School last week. 

At the games Friday, the children from five camp sites across the county tried their skills at a variety of outdoor activities including potato sack races, tug of war, relay races, and arts and crafts.

Students compete in sack races at El Camino Elementary School during United Way of Santa Barbara County’s Fun in the Sun summer program. Click to view larger
Students compete in sack races at El Camino Elementary School during United Way of Santa Barbara County’s Fun in the Sun summer program.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

The games, which wrapped up this summer's Fun in the Sun program, help encourage team building, leadership and problem-solving skills, organizers said. 

“The majority of students participating are low-resource individuals, so without this program, they would either be at home or not have this experience,” said Steve Ortiz, CEO and president of the United Way of Santa Barbara County. 

“We thank our partners, and this could not be possible without them.”

In 2016, 98 percent of the participants improved their reading skills over the summer instead of losing three months in academic achievement, thanks to the help of more than 70 service delivery partners, more than 20 funding partners and some 500 community volunteers, according to the United Way.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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