FUN IN THE SUN
More than 300 children gathered at El Camino Elementary School on Friday for a day of fun and excitement at United Way of Santa Barbara County’s annual Fun in the Sun Summer Program Olympics.
Students from the six-week Fun in the Sun summer program competed Friday in 11 games, including tug of war, a pie-eating contest, musical chairs, and a relay race. Forty-five United Way staff members and several parent volunteers helped wrangle the third- through eighth-graders.
“The kids look forward to it every year,” said Melinda Cabrera, United Way director of Strategic Partnership.
The field behind El Camino was full of bright yellow United Way shirts and the sound of kids having fun as groups took turns rotating from station to station.
Kids from United Way’s five Santa Barbara County sites, from Carpinteria to Solvang, participated in the event.
“It’s just a good way for them to meet other kids from other sites, compete, have fun. They work really hard academically all summer long and so today is just kind of like an act of celebration for them,” Ms. Cabrera told the News-Press.
Fun in the Sun is United Way’s free summer learning program designed to reduce summer learning loss and narrow the achievement gap for at-risk students in grades 3-12. For six weeks, students gather for mornings of academic enrichment, followed by afternoons of field trips and hands-on learning.
The program emphasizes literacy, including reading and writing; science, technology, engineering, arts and math; service learning projects; character education; financial literacy; and educational field trips.
Nathan Isaac Juarez, 19, took a break from Friday’s festivities to tell the News-Press about his time in the program. Nathan has participated in Fun in the Sun for the past two years, and says he loves how the program combines learning with having fun.
“We learned about owls and how when they eat their prey they cough up hairballs with the bones of their prey,” he said excitedly. He said he also enjoys studying math.
Nathan said the Olympic games are a highlight of his summer, a great opportunity to see old friends and meet new people.
“Everyone knows each other,” he said.
Nathan listed off a dozen new friends he made before he ran off to try the giant inflatable obstacle course, a favorite at the event.
Many of the students have participated in Fun in the Sun in the past, but newcomers are quickly welcomed into the group. Judith Figueroa, 11, said this is her first year in the program and said she wants to come back next year.
“You get to do literacy, math, all kinds of stuff. My favorite part is recess or lunch. We get to do foursquare,” she said.
Like Nathan, Judith said her favorite activity of the day was the inflatable obstacle course.
“Everything we do at Fun In the Sun is really rooted in teaching the kids teamwork and confidence and working together in a collaborative setting. All of our games are embedded in that, that teamwork mindset,” said Ms. Cabrera, “Anything we can do to get them wet and dirty is perfect.”
Friday’s event was sponsored by the Brain Balance Center of Santa Barbara.
“They are very generous to lend their support to this event today and we’re very grateful,” said Ms. Cabrera.