Santa Barbara, CA, August 2022 – Since 1997, United Way of Santa Barbara County (UWSBC) has provided Fun in the Sun, a collaborative summer learning program for local students and families. 2022 marks the program’s 25th year of operation, celebrating a long tradition of community partnerships and engagement to support Santa Barbara youth.
Over the course of the program’s history, with the support of community service delivery partners, thousands of students and their families have had access to a broad spectrum of support and services through Fun in the Sun. The primary outcome of the program focuses on bridging the gap for students who are identified by local districts and educators as at-risk for summer learning loss. In 2022, the Fun in the Sun program targeted the unique needs of 350 participants with data-driven literacy and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) curriculum and individualized support from trained academic specialists.
In addition to educational curriculum and services, Fun in the Sun students were also provided with a robust social-emotional program, field trips, gardening and outdoor activities, arts and movement classes, and community mentorship opportunities. This year, the Fun in the Sun program with partners like Super Bee, Montecito Bank and Trust, Santa Barbara Beach Yoga, Art with Louie, and drumming lessons with Drum Tiki. Students were also connected with community mentors through volunteer programs like Lunch Bunch and the Counselor-in-Training program, where local high school students volunteered their time during the summer to assist Fun in the Sun program staff.
“Seeing the impact I made on the participants as their faces lit up with smiles when I arrived every morning affirmed my previous wish of becoming an educator,” said Kavya Suresh, a Counselor-in-Training for the program. “I want to continue to be a mentor for people who may just need one person to guide them on the right path to empower them to transform the world.”
The program’s collaborative approach operates within a network of community service agencies that work in tandem with UWSBC to reach low-resource communities through the program. In 2022, community organizations like the Assistance League of Santa Barbara provided participants with clothes and other basic needs, while also supporting the program’s weekly swim lessons and literacy/STEAM curriculum Advocates and professionals from the Family Service Agency, were also invited each week to Fun in the Sun sites, connecting families with essential support for household stability, social-emotional wellness, and financial health. UWSBC has identified a stronger impact for these resources and services through the program, as Fun in the Sun works to foster long-term engagement with families, encouraging a 3-year commitment from accepted students.
“We are grateful for this network of partners who truly make Fun in the Sun one of the most comprehensive summer programs in our region. It has been an honor to facilitate this engagement on behalf of these students who need this kind of community now more than ever” said Melinda Cabrera, Vice President of UWSBC. “The number of partners and services the program provides requires intense planning and coordination. We are lucky to have an amazing team of staff and volunteers working behind the scenes to make it all a reality.”
In addition to new partners and activities, the 2022 program also expanded its academic curriculum to include support from tutors in UWSBC’s school-year program, the United Learning Center. Each week, certified academic tutors from the United Learning Center visited selected Fun in the Sun sites to work with students struggling to reach academic milestones and benchmarks in literacy.
2022 also marked the first collaboration with the UCSB College of Letters and Sciences. In a new longitudinal study, researchers will evaluate the impact of summer programming on low-income students within a program model of study like the Fun in the Sun summer learning program. Research began in 2022 and will continue through 2026.
Fun in the Sun concluded on July 28th, 2022. It served students at six sites throughout Santa Barbara County, including Aliso Elementary, Franklin Elementary, McKinley Elementary, Hollister Elementary, Solvang Elementary, and the program’s newest site located at Mary Buren Elementary in Guadalupe. Supported by UWSBC, local municipalities and school districts, corporations, and the philanthropic community in Santa Barbara, the program was able to offer the entirety of its programming and resources to 350 students and their families.
Learn more about the Fun in the Sun program here.