For ten years now, yellow school buses pull onto the UC Santa Barbara campus, bringing much of the Harding University Partnership School’s (HUPS) student to college for the (half-)day. That means the sixth graders who visited in 2010 are now seniors in college themselves. At this point these visits have changed hundreds of lives.
“Although UCSB is a mere ten miles away it can seem very distant from the Harding community,” Dean Jeffrey Milem of the Gevirtz School says. “By attending UCSB for even just a half day, students begin to conceive of returning when they are old enough to enter as full-fledged students. This annual visit isn’t just about education, it’s about promise and hope.”
It’s also about a wealth of very active activities. Students have gone on Lagoon Walks and worked with a Santa Barbara Poet Laureate, have danced aerobically and dressed in multiple layers as if ready to explore Antarctica, have studied physics during rocket launches and have worked hands-on restoring native wetland plants.
Of course, the annual UCSB visit is merely one of the most visible manifestations of the partnership. “Working with UCSB over the years has afforded thousands of students opportunities that otherwise would never have happened,” says Veronica Binkley, Principal at HUPS. “The academic support through GGSE tutors in both reading and mathematics, the social and emotional support through students facilitating Friendship Groups and the opportunity that our fourth grade classes have had to work weekly with the McEnroe Reading Clinic speak to just a few of the outreach programs in place.”
The partnership has certainly achieved many of the goals first planned for by then HUPS Principal Sally Kingston (Education, Ph.D., ’04) and then GGSE Dean Jane Close Conoley a decade ago. “One of my most engaging efforts at the Gevirtz School was our collaboration with Santa Barbara Unified School district in establishing the Harding University Partnership School,” claims Conoley, who is now President of Cal State Long Beach. “Pairing the substantial resources from the educators at Harding with our student teachers, researchers, and special education and psychological service teams represented a model to me about how graduate schools of education and local schools should share and direct resources for student success.”
This work has only strengthened in recent years, and Binkley is quick to give kudos to Dean Milem and Lilly Garcia, GGSE Director of Outreach. “As the principal at Harding University Partnership School, I maintain a focused school vision based on the needs of our students and community; namely quality programming in balanced literacy and in social and emotional learning complete with three tiers of support, also an on-going outreach to engage parents and community members to be a part of our school,” Binkley asserts. “GGSE has let this vision guide their support and input. Through our collaboration, projects come our way that enhance student success as they are based on on-going assessment and this shared vision. We feel privileged to work with such dedicated and capable people sharing state-of-the-art opportunities.”