SAYS Summer Program

The SAYS Scholar Academy aims to equip college bound students already active in the SAYS network with the tools, preparation, and knowledge necessary for them to begin envisioning their own educational journey after high school. The purpose of the academy is to cultivate Warrior Scholars capable of determining, defining, and creating their own path in higher education and breaking institutional barriers every step of the way.

This part of SAYS focuses on the 3 C’s for Warrior Scholars: college, community, and consciousness. Students receive an intensive summer academy as well as quarterly, follow-up check-ins during the academic year. Students are expected to be ambassadors of SAYS leadership model of social justice youth development year-round! 


Summer of SAYS Details

To improve educational equity along pathways to/through higher education, additional inputs, attention, and resources that focus on the most disadvantaged communities is paramount. As such, the UC Davis SAYS initiative paired with AT&T and the Teichert Foundation to revivify summer learning experiences for high-risk youth. Below is information on two critical inputs: the SAYS Summit College Day and the Summer Academy.

  • The SAYS Summit College Day on May 19, 2017 brought together 850 students and 90 educators from across Northern California. Because of our funding, 150 students from the lowest performing schools in Stockton Unified School District (Chavez, Franklin, Edison, Aspire, Webber, Health Cares Academy) were able to attend the summit for the first time. In addition, Grant Union High School in Del Paso Heights (Sacramento, CA) was able to bring 150 students as well.

  • Our funding also provided SAYS with the opportunity to organize an innovative overnight Summer Academy for 20 of our highest achieving 11th and 12th grade students from our highest need school sites. UC Davis undergraduate students spent 6 months designing the program, which included a robust curriculum, guest speakers, and hands-on college classroom experiences. All students completed their statement of purpose and filled out mock version of the UC application and FAFSA forms.

SAYS Summit College Day from 8am-8pm on May 19, 2017

Student Demographics:

  • 60 percent female, and 37 percent male

  • 67 percent African-American, 21 percent Chicana/o or Latina/o, 9 percent Caucasian, 8 percent Indigenous/Native American, 8 percent Asian-American and 12 percent mixed/multi-ethnic.

  • 91 percent of participants report an average grade of C or better in school

  • 56 percent of participants are a sophomore, junior or senior in high school

Summit Highlights:

  • 57 percent of participants who attended was their first time coming to UC Davis
  • 81 percent of student reported that the summit made them want to do better in school.

  • 75 percent of the students indicated that the summit made them want to attend college.

For the open-ended questions in the student survey, responses were coded and analyzed using a matrix to draw insights. When asked, “What three words describe SAYS,” the top three answers were: “Educational, Inspiring, and Fun.” Other answers included: “Creative, Learning, and Empowering.” These responses were juxtaposed to the way students described experiencing school. When asked, “What three words best describe your school,” the responses were quite scattered, but the majority of students indicated the words “ghetto,” “boring,” “racist,” and “drama.”

 Students Feedback:

  • 66 percent of students indicated that the speakers and presenters understood what their life is like.

  • 77 percent of student said they felt that speakers and presenters encourage them to get good grades in school.

  • 84 percent of students indicated that the speakers and presenters believe that they will be a success.

Student Testimonials:

  •  “This summit really encouraged me to have more of a voice.” –High School Student
  • “I really love this SAY Summit it has been a wonderful experience for me thank you so much!” –High School Student

  • “Thank you guys for giving us such great opportunity to explore UC Davis and great speeches from great people” –High School Student

  • “Keep doing what your doing! I enjoy you guys speeches and lessons you teach, you can only get better” – Middle School Student

  • “I've participated in SAYS for a long time and each time I come I learn something new” – High School Student

  • “Thank you so much. This program can inspire a lot of young people. Also, it is really helpful for this generation.” –High School Student

  • “This is perfect and fun you taught me things I didn't know and it was awesome. Thanks for letting me have the chance to come here – Middle School Student

While the students were attending the Summit, SAYS simultaneously provided teachers, educators and coordinators with innovative and interactive professional development. Of those who attended this year’s summit:

  • 66 percent female and 29 percent male, 35 percent Chicana/Latina/o, 31 percent Caucasian, 27 percent African-American, 8 percent Asian-American, 4 percent Native American and 2 percent mixed/multi-ethnic.

  • 58 percent of those worked at a high school, 15 percent worked at a middle school and 27 percent worked at an Elementary School or University.

When asked to describe their school, the most popular answers that stood out ranged from, “challenging/challenged, “dysfunctional, and “stuck ” to “potential,” “learning,” and “committed.” When asked “What type of students do you think SAYS Summit helps the most” here are a few responses that stood out:

  • “Students who are thirsty for an empowering education.” –Classroom Teacher

  • “All students, especially those who live in social toxic environments.” –Classroom Teacher

  • “Our at-risk kids - they need to see people who look like them to envision the endless possibilities that exist for them.” –Middle School Counselor

  • “Students of color from disenfranchised communities because this may be the 1st time that they feel validated and allowed to express how they feel or learn to dig for their feelings.” –High School Vice Principal

For the first time ever, SAYS Summit asked Crew Leaders to complete a survey. The majority of crew leaders are first generation college students at UC Davis. When asked why they chose to be a Crew Leader here are a few answers that stood out:

  • “Empower the Youth”

  • “I love bettering my community”

  • “Because it encompasses the ultimate experience of the summit”

The SAYS Summit College Day involved undergraduate students, teachers and school leaders, community members, and young people in a praxis that engages and empowers. Founded in 2009 by Dr. Vajra Watson, SAYS continues to forge pathways between the community and college to radically transform education. Through year-round programming, SAYS breaks the chains of underachievement by elevating the voices of young people and creating spaces for students to become authors of their own lives and agents of change.

SAYS Summer Academy from June 19-22, 2017

Sacramento Area Youth Speaks (SAYS) was able to host the 1st Scholar Academy, an overnight intensive summer intervention program from June 19-22nd. Students went through a rigorous application process and interviews. All students were selected from high-poverty high-need LCFF+ school sites in the region.

62 percent of participants in the summer academy were African American, 15 percent Chicana/o and Latina/o, and 23 percent mixed. Students denoted that the academy taught them practical tools about financial aid, the college application, writing the personal statement, and how to pick a major. The only change that the students requested is that the academy: “longer period,” “stay longer,” and “make the academy longer.”

Student Testimonial

“I love you guys and you have each saved me from a dark and low life. Through your stories I have become more confident in myself and I especially have found an outlet and have accepted my identity as a young Hispanic women in this generation.”

Below are some photos from the SAYS scholar academy, including their journal writing project, reading groups, and graduation ceremony.