Students to assist with YMCA summer achievement program

'Find My Genius' designed to improve reading ability

Lessons focus on vocabulary, spelling, grammar, reading, writing and math. 

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – March 22, 2019) For the second year, California Lutheran University graduate students will earn hands-on teaching experience at the Southeast Ventura County YMCA's free five-week achievement gap program for low- and moderate-income students who are not reading at grade level. 

“Find My Genius” is designed to close the achievement gap frequently experienced by students over the summer. Last summer, 60 students entering second, third and fourth grade took part at Conejo Elementary School in Thousand Oaks. Lessons focus on vocabulary, spelling, grammar, reading, writing and math. 

In 2018, three Cal Lutheran Graduate School of Education (GSOE) students worked full time in the classroom and 15 others volunteered part time as academic camp counselors. 

"The program, with the invaluable help by Cal Lutheran students, made a big impact on our participants," says Isabel Pelayo, “Find My Genius” camp director and a Cal Lutheran GSOE alumna. 

In 2018, the 60 scholars improved an average of two months in reading and 2 1/2 months in math. In addition, 91% of the parents reported their child gained confidence as a result of the program. 

To build upon last year's success, the program is expanding to accommodate 120 scholars this summer. 

Cal Lutheran not only provides student teachers, but also helps underwrite the cost. 

“This program provides important summer educational experiences for children in our community as well as meaningful opportunities for our graduate students to continue their development as future teachers,” said Michael R. Hillis, dean of the Cal Lutheran GSOE. “We are excited to be ongoing sponsors and look forward to how this program will grow in the future.”

Participants are nominated by their schools to attend this summer program.  All will be notified about admission by the YMCA by mid-May.

Besides the program's learning component, there is also plenty of time for scholars to take part in outdoor activities, field trips, swimming and arts and crafts. "Emphasis is placed on character building, healthy eating habits and physical activity. It's a well-rounded, positive experience that can set young students on the right path to success in school and life," says Pelayo.

The YMCA also receives funding for “Find My Genius” from the Lennox Foundation, the Valentine Foundation and individual donors.