Founder and Director of UPLIFT, Dr. Shannon M. Stanton
Dr. Shannon M. Stanton wants to close the achievement gap by making summer fun and educational.
What do you do when summer school sessions have been cut off due to budget issues? You start a free program like Dr. Shannon M. Stanton did for middle school youth. The Uniting Passion and Literacy for Individual Focus and Transformation (UPLIFT) program is designed to nurture academic achievement by highlighting individual interests with one-on-one focused teaching and curriculum.
Stanton is a professor at Whittier College in the Department of Education and Child Development having received her education and training from UCLA, Harvard University, CSU Dominguez and UC Berkeley. A former Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) teacher, she has been witness to the education gap in minority communities.
UPLIFT was born from one of Stanton’s classes that looked at the history of education for all groups of people. Out of one of Dr. Stanton’s research groups was a project that took a deeper look into the achievement gap between African Americans, Latinos and Caucasians in schools. They started with an after school program where they followed 6th grade to 8th grade students.
“One of the things that we noticed was the gap academically,” said Stanton. “So [students] were coming after school… and we were concerned with reading and writing, we were doing literature circles with them and helping them with their homework but there was so much more.”
Stanton stated that there were still areas that needed filling in especially when it came to cultural history. She had come to see that kids would get lost in the shuffle in school and as a result, fall short in their educational experiences.
“Once students start matriculating to middle school, they get lost in a sea of students,” said Stanton. “Because now, they’re switching classes, they no longer have one teacher.”
Currently based in Long Beach at Lindsey Middle School, the program began this summer on July 15 and ends on August 9. It’s a four-week program for middle school students that aims to increase skills in reading, writing and critical thinking but Stanton wants to make sure it’s more than just another summer school class. Most of the staff at UPLIFT are undergraduates studying to be teachers while working as teacher aides under Stanton’s direction. The best thing about the UPLIFT program is it’s free.
The program at UPLIFT is divided into two classes: one of them is the Masters Class. In the Masters Class, students are broken into groups all headed by an instructor. The groups engage in guided readings of a book on the syllabus and participate in critical thinking and conversations.
“We’re really working on writing skills, reading comprehension and vocabulary with a focus on identity and character,” said Stanton
The second class is workshops where student rotate throughout different stations for 30 minutes including Technology, which utilizes PowerPoint to talk about their role models; Café Lit, where they get a variety of writing assignments; Lab X Squared, which is a station where they do science and math, experimenting with plants, measurements and real world equations; Do It Yourself, which is a project design class; Curtain Call, which is a drama class learning about all the roles in theater; Art Studio, which the students work on a variety of art projects and Got Game, which features board games and other engaging activities for the students. The classes are tailored to the students’ interests to better engage them in learning.
“It’s really finding out what is their interests as a way to motivate them to read,” said Stanton. “It’s four-weeks and it’s quick.”
UPLIFT is on a mission to make sure that underserved youth have all the advantages of kids receiving a well-rounded education. Stanton wants to meet the challenge of supplying inner city youth with place to learn and grow during the summer.
“Right now, we have kids who are not reading at grade level,” said Stanton. “Summer has to be more than just playing [and] I understand that there are other activities but when you’re so behind— we need programs that are really going to help kids get to the next level.
“My goal for UPLIFT is partnering with schools and saying, ‘We will offer the summer program for you,’” said Stanton.
For more information on UPLIFT, you can contact them by phone at (562) 907-4248 or by Fax at (562) 464-4596. You may also email them at