Fun In the Sun, an educational program developed by United Way of Santa Barbara County, has won the National Summer Learning Association’s top award for 2012.
The award given by a Baltimore-based group was developed as a way of spotlighting programs that excel in closing the so-called “achievement gap,” the widening difference in scores between affluent and disadvantaged students. One of the best ways to close the gap, which occurs from kindergarten through grade 12, is to keep disadvantaged students engaged in summer learning activities so they don’t lose ground when they return to school in the fall, the university said.
Established 15 years ago, Fun in the Sun has grown to include 15 funders, 72 organizations delivering services and more than 500 volunteers, many from business organizations. Around 250 students participate each year.
Paul Didier, CEO of the Santa Barbara-based organization, said many of the improvements to Fun in the Sun over the years were the result of Six Sigma quality improvement training taken at Raytheon, a major South Coast employer. He said the Fun in the Sun program, which includes a meal and supervised recreation in addition to learning activities, is producing “life changing results in disadvantaged students and their families each year.”
The award will be presented at the national organization’s Summer Changes Everything conference held in October. Organizations in Ohio and New York also received top awards.[Editor’s Note: Pacific Coast Business Times volunteers participate in Fun in the Sun, and Editor Henry Dubroff serves on the board of United Way.] [Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the number of students that participate in Fun in the Sun each year and misstated the developers of the National Summer Learning Association’s awards.]