With funding secured, the next step was to find a way to transport the Aim High “magic” 200 miles from the central office in San Francisco to Kings Beach, California.After logistics were secured, the last piece of the puzzle was finding two founding site directors who embodied the Aim High spirit and were willing to, as Alec Lee put it, “jump into the unknown and take on this challenge.” The first co-director was Carl Siegel, a veteran Aim High teacher from San Francisco. The second was Katie Jamison, a newcomer to Aim High, but a highly esteemed TTUSD teacher and coach. As a founding team, Siegel, Jamison, and their staff worked tirelessly to create their own brand of Aim High “magic.” “We bused our whole staff down to San Francisco to view both the Mission and Urban campuses in full swing,” said Jamison. “The experience in these classrooms and the information provided from their staff members really showed our new staff what the Aim High ‘magic’ could be.” Tahoe-Truckee Aim High (TTAH) has certainly developed its own brand of “magic”. There are a number of things that make TTAH unique, but the biggest factor is probably the respect for the program and buy-in from the community. For example, each year, the Kings Beach Library donates one book to each student in the program. In addition, vendors such as High Altitude Fitness, Old Brockway Golf Course, and Tahoe Paddle and Oar provide discounts so that Aim High students can learn how to rock climb, gold, and paddle board. “These community connections allow students to enjoy and thrive socially and emotionally outside of the classroom in an environment that they may not have the opportunity to enjoy otherwise,” Jamison said.
We bused our whole staff down to San Francisco to view both the Mission and Urban campuses in full swing. The experience in these classrooms and the information provided from their staff members really showed our new staff what the Aim High ‘magic’ could be.Additionally, there is immense support of the program from the school district. “Our superintendent, district office, principals, site secretaries, counselors, teachers, and community liaisons unite seamlessly to ensure that the students who really need Aim High enroll and attend,” said Jamison. Since it began, TTAH has changed in scope, but not in purpose. Thanks in part to the Cowell Foundation, which has continued to fund the campus over the past five summers, the program has grown from 50 students in 2012 to over 130 in 2016. Aim High employs over 25 teachers and interns in the summer, including several graduates of the program. Jamison remains at the helm and is joined by co-director Marco Mora. Mora is returning for his second summer at TTAH and is also a teacher at North Tahoe School. It is undeniable that, over the last five summers, Aim High in Tahoe Truckee has made a huge impact on the community and on education. The achievement gap has narrowed considerably and students are finding joy in learning. “This program has become a life source to a struggling student population,” said Jamison. “During the last five summers, Aim High students have become self-advocates… [It is] an environment which students and their families want to be a part of before they even set foot on campus. We are truly a family and have successfully created a culture that supports and maintains that relationship.” Watch this video to learn more about Tahoe-Truckee Aim High.