Borrego Sun - Since 1949

By Martha Deichler
BSUSD School-Community Liaison and BASIC Board Member 

BASIC's 7th Successful Summer Learning Academy


Last updated 9/14/2023 at 11:31am

"My daughter, Emily, needed help in reading and after attending BASIC's Summer Learning Academy, she is bringing home chapter books and loves reading them! My daughter enjoyed every day and loved her teacher, Ms. Fuerte."

Such were the words of a very happy parent, Gabriela Ramirez, when asked how she and her 4th grade daughter felt about BASIC's (Basic Assistance to Students in the Community) Summer Learning Academy held for four weeks at the Steele/Burnand Anza Borrego Desert Research Center.

BASIC, a "cradle to graduation" program, has been in existence for over 30 years. It exists to assist our community of learners from childhood through adulthood, in accessing an education in spite of our rural location and low socio-economic situation. This highly successful 501c3 accomplishes its mission through grants, scholarships and programs such as this Summer Academy.

Led by Headmaster Tim White, also Borrego High School's accomplished math teacher and football coach, 41 students in four classes made progress in their areas of greatest need: reading, writing and math.

Students were chosen by the school principals based on need, as well as, desire and ability to attend all 20 sessions. Students with perfect attendance (one absence allowed) received a refurbished laptop with headphones. It appears that all but two students accomplished this!

In the aftermath of COVID and the accompanying loss of educational time in the classroom, our students, like many all over the U.S., are having to play catch up in their academics. Reading and math scores have dropped precipitously, attendance has been sporadic when schools reopened and behaviors became challenging as students, especially younger ones, were unaccustomed to following the traditional classroom routines.

The "recipe" for BASIC's Summer Learning Academy's success appears to be small classes (1/10 teacher/student ratio), excellent teachers, the presence of classroom aides for more individual attention, a focus on each student's area of need and of course, the delicious breakfasts and lunches delivered daily from Kendall's! The Borrego Valley Endowment Fund covered the cost of the nutritious meals which the students and staff appreciated immensely.

These excellent teachers were Tania Fuerte (reading), Heidi Schlotfeldt (writing) and math teachers (elementary) Ken Collard and (middle school) Joe McGowan. Their aides were Joselynn Troncoso, Ty White, Bryan Fuerte and Brody White. Working as a tight team, these educators were able to offer their students a rigorous academic program balanced with enrichment, project-based learning, books and swag such as backpacks, shirts and school supplies.

As noted by BASIC's Managing Director, Nidia Meza, as well as staff members Tim White and Ken Collard, something special was happening at the Academy this summer at the same time as the academic growth. The social and emotional growth of the students was almost as measurable as the test scores. COVID had such a devastating effect on their sense of connection to friends, school and the world around them but being in this BASIC "family" for a month, proved to be healing and provided a strong foundation for continued learning.

As BSUSD does not have the funding to offer summer school, a parent noted, "The Summer Learning Academy is the best help our children can have to support them in reading and math over the summer."

Each year the waiting list gets longer as does the number of students in need. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could double the recipe for this successful program and serve it to 80 students?

BASIC is a charitable 501c3 organization and your donations could help grow our programs. You may give at or send your checks to PO 1914.

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