Member Profile- El Sol Academy
El Sol Science and Arts Academy is a PK-8 bilingual charter school in the heart of Santa Ana, California. The school primarily serves the local school population including many students who are recent immigrants, English language learners and receiving free or reduced lunch. El Sol is dual immersion school (Spanish/English) with over 1000 students on a 2.5 acre campus.
Since its beginning, El Sol has made a commitment to creating a sense of community and overcoming the notion that it is a large school on a small campus. With community organizations, universities and secondary schools involved in the health, success and educational outcome of its students, El Sol is a place where all students are afforded the opportunity to succeed and reach their potential.
The cornerstone partnerships of El Sol have grown from individual relationships, partnerships and opportunities. The highly structured partnership that El Sol has with Sage Hill School is one such example. What started as an opportunity for AP Spanish students to practice their oral communication skills by reading to a group of kindergarten students transformed into two school communities committed to each other in their growth, experiences and educational outcomes.
When the Sage Hill Spanish students first arrived at El Sol to read to the kindergarten students they found themselves intimidated and apprehensive around the young students. Worried that their language skills were not strong enough to communicate with a classroom of Spanish speakers, the students had to find the courage to take risks in a foreign language, practice their public speaking skills and find comfort in an environment that was completely foreign to them. On the other hand, the kindergarten students of El Sol were overjoyed to have new friends and reading buddies to join them in their class on a regular basis. Immediately it was clear that this was a mutually beneficial partnership that could be expanded upon in other areas.
The experience from this initial connection cleared a path for more partnerships to be established and has provided the basis for a stronger sense of institutional commitment to develop between Sage Hill and El Sol. Not only are the students from both schools involved, but increasingly other members of the community are involved as well.
For example, a Sage Hill student enjoyed her Spanish reading buddy so much that she spoke to her parents about her experience and shared the positive effects of spending time at El Sol. The mother of this student was already in the process of growing her own non-profit, Global Girls Rising, and reached out to El Sol to discuss the possibility of collaborating with her organization. Initially, Global Girls Rising hoped to collaborate with El Sol by providing its girls with the resources to develop leadership skills, find educational success and become leaders of their communities. With El Sol’s help, the non-profit occupied an abandoned building across the street from El Sol and opened up after school and weekend programs. The programs’ overwhelming successes permitted Global Girls Rising to expand its programs to girls not only from El Sol but from the entire Santa Ana community. Today, Global Girls Rising is a beacon of opportunity and support for all girls in Santa Ana.
Currently, the two schools find their communities intertwined in many areas. Monique Daviss, Executive Director of El Sol Science and Arts Academy says that “what started as a simple collaboration has become an environment of two schools working together as one community.” Ideas for further collaboration are explored at the beginning of each school year at El Sol’s Community Orientation where members of both El Sol and Sage Hill communities can pitch ideas for collaboration. Organically grown partnerships are supported to use the assets of the community to help all of the students achieve at their highest level.