Aim High graduates give back to North Tahoe-Truckee this summer
August 4, 2015
KINGS BEACH, Calif. — You would expect that most 14- or 15 year-olds are spending this summer hanging out with friends, sitting in front of the TV or possibly working a summer job.
But a group of 10 incoming high school sophomores from the North Tahoe and Truckee area are spending their summer volunteering as mentors for the Aim High program.
Aim High is in its fourth year with the Truckee Tahoe Unified School District. It provides a full day of rigorous academics plus daily fun events and activities to local under-resourced middle school students.
This is the first summer that Aim High has graduates of its program serving as mentors to younger students.
Each of the mentors is assigned to a specific room or a specific student. Their job is to help the students with whatever they need — whether it's working through a math problem or helping with a group project.
The mentors say they don't feel like they're missing out on anything this summer. They have become a tight knit group of friends and enjoy working with younger students.
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"In the morning, we have the 'morning mantra.' It's really fun to see everyone come together and start the day," says 14-year-old Rata Sanchez.
The mentors are all volunteers this summer. Next summer they have the opportunity to apply for a paid position with Aim High, and all of them say they plan on applying.
But there will only be four paid positions available next summer mostly because funding for Aim High comes in large part from fundraising and charitable contributions.
"I like being a volunteer. I liked Aim High so much I wanted to come back," says 16-year-old Jasmine Sanchez. "We get to help with school work in the mornings and we get to do the activities in the afternoons."
The school district supports the program by providing Kings Beach Elementary classrooms and bus service each day. The Boys and Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe provides lunch.
And a number of other local partners like the Excellence in Education Foundation provide financial support to keep Aim High going and expanding to ever more local middle school students.
"If I weren't doing this, I'd be doing nothing, just sitting at home," says 14-year-old Froi Gaitan.
All of the mentors who are volunteering this summer say that when they were students in the program, Aim High made a big impact on their lives.
They made close connections with friends. They got extra academic help which made their grades improve. And they each gained more perspective and purpose in their lives.
"It's great because of the teaching and learning. You get to help the kids and lead them," says 15-year-old Yuliana Mendoza. "I like mentoring. One day I want to become a teacher."
One added benefit to volunteering at Aim High is all the mentors earn hours for their high school volunteer requirement.
The requirement is only 36 hours and most of the mentors will earn about 150 hours this summer. They all agree — it's time well spent.
Shelly Purdy is a board member for Excellence in Education Foundation. For information, visit http://www.exined.org.
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