Fourth Year of BASIC


Last updated 8/22/2019 at 1:55pm

Jolene Nacapuy

The Basic Assistance for Students in the Community (BASIC) Summer Learning Academy wrapped up another summer of hard work and fun-filled learning for the 33 students in attendance. Held at the Steele/Burnand Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center, the all-volunteer, donor-supported Academy is in its fourth year.

Tim White, the Academy's new administrator, expressed how impressed he was with the work put in by the students and the overall program.

"It was a great experience for these students. They showed a lot of improvement from the beginning of the summer," White said. "And I was able to build some good interpersonal relationships with kids I am going to be teaching math to and coaching in sports this next school year. Getting to know them on a different level was valuable."

The BASIC Summer Learning Academy is a community-embedded "school without walls" program providing over 100 hours of intensive literacy coursework in reading and mathematics.

Two new Academy teachers and a student aide added to the team this year all received high marks from White.

Luke Nantz, the 2019 Academy reading class teacher, having been encouraged by educator Sandy Angle to volunteer for the program before, wanted to but his teaching calendar in Mexico always conflicted. With his switch to teaching in the Dominican Republic, Nantz finally had a summer that matched.

"Former academy administrator Curt Yaws came to Santo Domingo [the capital of the Dominican Republic] to celebrate the graduation of a student he had been supporting for many years," Nantz said. "Over a meal together during his visit, he shared stories about the Academy that made me leap at the opportunity when he asked if I would be interested in teaching this summer's reading program."

Gaby Rocha, an alumna of Borrego Springs High School and co-salutatorian of her graduating class, was the new student aide this year. Rocha will be attending San Francisco State in the fall to pursue her BA in forensic psychology. She hopes to attend Berkley for her master's degree.

Lydia Gordon, a new science and math teacher at BSHS, also dedicated part of her summer to teaching the Academy's math program, and Heidi Schlotfeldt, the social studies teacher at Borrego Springs Middle School returned to conduct the English language learners' class.

"With teachers Lydia, Heidi and Luke, we had an excellent team. Aides Bretnee and Tania were amazing, and bringing on Gaby, a stroke of genius," White said.

On Aug. 7, over 120 family members, friends, and academy students gathered at the Research Center to celebrate the successful close to the 2019 BASIC Summer Learning Academy. The celebration was a sharing of student accomplishments and a recognition to the volunteers and supporters for their contributions in making this year's Academy possible.

"It is because of all of you, that we are able to keep this program running," White said.

He thanked the Research Center for allowing the use of the facility and being great hosts yet again. He then went on to thank the Borrego Springs Unified School District, who provided school bus transportation for the students. He thanked Superintendent Mark Stevens and middle-high school principal Victoria Baay, in attendance for the celebration, for their support.

White joshed that Kendall's Café catering all those breakfasts and lunches helped him gain a bit of weight and thanked them sincerely for providing the meals yet again for the students.

Each class made their final presentations before the crowd in attendance. Then Nantz reading class was first up with a Read Aloud where each student read a line in a storytelling session.

Next was Schlotfeldt's class with each student's individual "I AM" poem on display along a couple of walls of the Research Center. They added a bit of "razzle-dazzle" with a rhythmic reading from a selection from their I AM poems as one collective poem, a major crowd pleaser.

Gordon's math class broke out in three groups for their final presentation. Each group tasked with building a bridge out of toothpicks and popsicle sticks. With each group's creation on display, Gordon attached a hanging basket of increasing weight to each. The crowd was quite impressed to see how much each structure could support. The first bridge was able to hold 35 pounds, while the next two tied at 50 pounds.

Following the presentations, all enjoyed desserts provided by Kendall's Café.

Before leaving, the parents and students were invited to take with them whatever books they wanted from a selection of over 200 books donated and laid out on tables in the back of the Research Center for them.

"Take home as many as you would like, I do not want to see them here," Yaws said. "I want you all to be reading them at home, sharing them with your friends and families."

Academy Administrator White closed out the 2019 BASIC Summer Learning Academy with these words.

"For the 2020 BASIC Summer Learning Academy, student progress over the coming school year will tell us if we provide the same program next summer or do more. For each 3rd quartile student that flips to the 1st quartile, the 2019 BASIC Summer Learning Academy will have reached its goal for that student, and if enough students are flipping from 3rd to 1st, well, it will be easy to say we are doing a great job," White said.

"But the proof is in the pudding. Year four is behind, on to year five and a summer program that will either be the same or more."

For more information about the Summer Learning Academy, to apply for other educational help, or to offer your support please contact BASIC at P.O. Box 1914, Borrego Springs, California 92004, or on the web at Please visit regarding the 31st Annual Circle of Art, March 14 – 15, 2020, held at Christmas Circle. Circle of Art is sponsored by Basic Assistance for Students in the Community, a 501 (c)(3) charitable nonprofit committed to enabling the children, youth and adults of Borrego Springs to pursue educational opportunities at all levels, empowering them from Cradle to Graduation by offering grants, scholarships and programs to help students of all ages reach their potential and realize their dreams.

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