IMAGINE Community Academy Needs More Robotic Kits!

ICA students Vernon and Isay test drive a mini-robot they programmed to control using a smartphone.


Perhaps the most compelling reason for more robotics curriculum and kits at IMAGINE Community Academy is that it introduces our students to knowledge, concepts, and skills needed for understanding the intelligent information-based technology of the future:  technology that is highly interactive, multi-modal, adaptive and autonomous.

To learn how you can buy and deliver a Robotics Kits to our students, please call Veda Bautista (916) 285-5422 or email:


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What Are Facts Without Context?


With today’s technology at our fingertips, it is simply not necessary to memorize a ton of facts to be a successful student. I would argue that insisting students remember facts does not prepare them for college, career or to become functional adults. The reasoning that “learning by memorizing” is inadequate for students to become healthy and mature thinking adults.

Every day people are involved in problem-solving, analyzing, critical thinking, communicating and many more high-level thought processes. These are not skills reserved for geeks, nerds, or techno-gurus; these are the real-life skills people use every single day. So, if schools are not teaching these critical skills, how do they learn them? – Please do not suggest “the school of hard knocks.”


At Imagine Community Academy, our students need to be prepared to process questions that answer whether or not they should go to college or straight to a career. How about knowing how to navigate an intimate relationship towards marriage and family? They will need to know how to secure a loan to buy a house and how they should vote intelligently in the next election. These are all real-life scenarios that require high-level thinking, not memorization.

Shoulder To Shoulder is intentionally employing the Imagine Community Academy to empower mentees and students to know how to think and learn for themselves.



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Facts Do Not Teach Students How To Think

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

Ok. That is great, but what motivated Columbus to set sail for new lands? What kinds of obstacles and unforeseen challenges did Columbus and his crew face as they set off? How did he interact with the people in the new lands he discovered? Should we regard Columbus as a hero or as a villain? Moreover, how would the Americas be different if Columbus failed his mission? – Facts do not teach students how to think.

With today’s technology, students can pick up their mobile device and say “Hey, Siri! On what date did World War One end?” and their phone instantly replies, “November 11, 1918.” So, what is the practical point if they do not understand what the war was about or the people or events that ended it? – Facts do not teach students how to think.

From the moment our students began taking the Summit Learning Assessments (tests), they complained, “Mrs. Moore, you never taught us how to answer questions like these.” She responds, “If you studied everything available in your online platform, you would already know that you have access to all the resources you need to answer these questions. Marcia, we are not interested in the facts you can memorize; our focus is helping you discover how to think and discover learning for yourself.”

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When Students Are Traumatized, Teachers Are Too

Trauma in students’ lives takes a toll on the emotional and physical wellbeing of the teachers.

Alysia Ferguson Garcia remembers the day two years ago that ended in her making a call to Child Protective Services. One of her students walked into drama class with what Garcia thought of as a “bad attitude” and refused to participate in a script reading.

“I don’t care if you’ve had a bad day,” Garcia remembers saying in frustration. “You still have to do some work.”

In the middle of class, the student offered an explanation for her behavior: Her mom’s boyfriend had been sexually abusing her. After the shock passed, the incident provided an opportunity for the class—and Garcia—to provide the student with comfort, and to cry.

When Garcia first started teaching, she wasn’t expecting the stories her students would share of physical and sexual abuse, hunger, violence, and suicide. The stories seemed to haunt her all the way home, she says, recalling nightmares and sleepless nights spent worrying about her students. They also dredged up deep-seated memories of her own experiences with abuse.“When you’re learning to be a teacher, you think it’s just about lesson plans, curriculum, and seating charts,” said Garcia. “I was blindsided by the emotional aspect of teaching—I didn’t know how to handle it. I was hurt by my students’ pain, and it was hard for me to leave that behind when I went home.”


35% of children have experienced more than one adverse childhood experience.

Data shows that more than half of all U.S. children have experienced some kind of trauma in the form of abuse, neglect, violence, or challenging household circumstances—and 35 percent of children have experienced more than one type of traumatic event, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can have impacts that extend far beyond childhood, including higher risks for alcoholism, liver disease, suicide, and other health problems later in life.

Trauma in children often manifests outwardly, affecting kids’ relationships and interactions. In schools, the signs of trauma may be seen in a student acting out in class, or they could be more subtle—like failure to make eye contact or repeatedly tapping a foot. (To learn more about how trauma impacts students, read “Brains in Pain Cannot Learn!”)

For teachers, who are directly exposed to a large number of young people with trauma in their work, a secondary type of trauma, known as vicarious trauma, is a big risk. Sometimes called the “cost of caring,” vicarious trauma can result from “hearing [people’s] trauma stories and becom[ing] witnesses to the pain, fear, and terror that trauma survivors have endured,” according to the American Counseling Association.

“Being a teacher is a stressful enough job, but teachers are now responsible for a lot more things than just providing education,” says LeAnn Keck, a manager at Trauma Smart, an organization that partners with schools and early childhood programs to help children and the adults in their lives navigate trauma.

“It seems like teachers have in some ways become case workers. They get to know about their students’ lives and the needs of their families, and with that can come secondary trauma.”

When you’re learning to be a teacher, you think it’s just about lesson plans, curriculum, and seating charts. I was blindsided by the emotional aspect of teaching—I didn’t know how to handle it.

Vicarious trauma affects teachers’ brains in much the same way that it affects their students’: The brain emits a fear response, releasing excessive cortisol and adrenaline that can increase heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration, and release a flood of emotions. This biological response can manifest in mental and physical symptoms such as anger and headaches, or workplace behaviors like missing meetings, lateness, or avoiding certain students, say experts.

Yet many teachers are never explicitly taught how to help students who have experienced trauma, let alone address the toll it takes on their own health and personal lives. We reached out to trauma-informed experts and educators around the country to get their recommendations for in-the-moment coping strategies and preventative measures to help teachers process vicarious trauma.

To learn about the tips they recommend, click here to read the original article.


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Helping Students Think for Themselves

With simple and clear learning prompts, students were cut loose to discover through news and internet sources details and facts about Hurricane Harvey that organically stimulated their curiosities about aspects of the natural disaster of most interest to them.

19 Trillion Gallons of Water

For example; three of our students (in photo above) became intrigued to know what 19 trillion gallons of water could be compared to and discovered in their search that 19 trillion gallons of water would fill:

  1. 235 Million Swimming Pools
  2. 460 Billion Bath Tubs
  3. 260 Million households would need 1 year to use up 19 trillion gallons of water

According to Huffington Post “Schools should teach kids to think, not memorize.” Read more.

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Why Add An Academic Component To STS?

Learning Gaps are the reason we are doing IMAGINE Community Academy

Learning gap refers to the relative performance of individual students—i.e., the disparity between what a student has actually learned and what he or she was expected to learn at a particular age or grade level.

One of the more consequential outcomes of learning gaps is their tendency, if left unaddressed, to compound over time and become more severe and pronounced, which can increase the chances that a student will struggle academically and socially or drop out of school. In addition, if foundational academic skills—such as reading, writing, and math, as well as social and interpersonal skills—are not acquired by students early on in their education, it may be more difficult for them to learn these foundational skills later on.

Avoiding the Academic Brick Wall

Even as middle-schoolers, the youth we serve are already on perilous trajectories toward gangs, drugs, prison, prostitution, teen pregnancy, and unemployment, because they were continually promoted without adequate reading comprehension and basic math skills. The closer they get to high school the wider become their learning gaps and the more likely they will hit an Academic Brick Wall if we do not nudge their trajectories towards paths of personal growth and learning.

This is why our efforts are aimed at closing the learning gaps for fatherless and high risk youth. Together with your tangible support these children will avoid a life of government entitlement by enjoying a life of academic empowerment.

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Why Include Girls in STS?

More than one occasion I have been asked: “Why are we now including girls in an organization that has historically mentored fatherless boys?”

My reply:

Our vision must grow to include more than mentoring fatherless boys, and it must become greater than delivering a globally educated workforce. Our goal must expand to empower children, both boys, and girls, to realize their value and potential that begins to erase the real and imagined boundaries in their lives and to support them in the pursuit of their dreams.

To accomplish this, every staff member, mentor, and volunteer must be intentional with connecting their efforts to the grand and eternal purpose for every child’s life. And today we have a beautiful opportunity to provide a critical infusion of support aimed at changing and empowering the lives of precious children as demonstrated in this short 16-second video.

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Celebrating Children’s Victories and Successes

What do you categorize as a “success” for your child? What about a “victory”? Is it getting elected class president? Carrying the winning ball across the end zone? Getting accepted to an Ivy League school? Most parents have dreams for their children and help them aspire to being their best.

When a fatherless boy has never been motivated or supported at home the story is quite different. Shoulder-To-Shoulder mentors tell of mentees they’ve been matched with who have never played catch, never ridden a bike, never gone fishing or flown a kite. Success for these kids included taking their first bus ride, playing catch, going beyond the boundaries of their three-square-mile neighborhood. Success also is achieved by resisting the invitation by local gang members to get initiated, or declining multiple opportunities to sample one of the varieties of street drugs offered by older siblings and even parents.

These aren’t kids who get elected class president or who do volunteer work for extra credit. Victories for these children can be categorized as completing homework, getting a part time job, participating in after school programs and even getting to school each day. The chances for these children, many of whom are one of several siblings living with a single mother and living on $15,000 per year or less, are nearly zero when it comes to higher education, well-paying jobs or even getting out of the neighborhood.

Shoulder-To-Shoulder is beginning to break that cycle. There are many successes and victories to celebrate for the dozens of Shoulder-To-Shoulder mentees (past and present) who have been a part of the program.

Below are a few examples:

Taking His Future Into His Own Hands

Seeing a boy with a GPA of LESS than 2.0, no place to study in the home, not even a bed to sleep on develop a strong relationship with his mentor. As a result his eyes have been opened up to the opportunities and possibilities available to him in the world. From this enlightenment comes and understanding of the importance of focusing on studies and grades. He joined the Royal Ranger Junior Leadership Training, attended the SMASH (Summer Math and Science Honor’s Academy) at UC Davis and has started attending church on a regular basis. He is getting good grades and has set goals for his future.

Learning To Trust

A mentee whose home life is with an ailing grandmother because his drug addicted mother lives in another city and isn’t in his life was matched with a mentor. It took nearly 6 months for the boy to trust his mentor and begin opening up to him and having lengthy discussions. Over the course of time the boy realized that his mentor was giving him the fatherly guidance he had lacked. And with this new founded trust he has learned many new skills such as how to study, what it’s like to be part of an involved family, why character is important and many other valuable life lessons. He has become like a member of the mentors family and embraces learning and improving life skills.

Gaining Confidence and Feeling Empowered

Two mentees were matched with a mentor who was shocked to hear of the drive by shooting they witnessed while waiting for the school bus that morning.

To them it wasn’t a big deal, to him it was a clear understanding of the life they were living. These boys were mentored from 7th grade through graduation going from a GPA of “F” to as high as 2.75 and even 3.8. This mentor introduced these boys to snow for the first time, took them each summer to the American Cardboard Boat Regatta, taught them proper manners and etiquette and even competed in the Lion’s Club speech contest. Did they celebrate getting into Harvard? Not quite, but seeing them walk across the stage at graduation was the biggest victory they ever could have imagined. Their mentor was standing up and cheering them on every step of the way.

These are just a few brief examples of the impact Shoulder-To-Shoulder mentors have had on mentees. But there are more successes to celebrate those are the impacts that the mentees have had on the mentors.

Here are a few examples of how mentors are impacted by dedicating there time to these fatherless boys:

A mentor expressed the way his experience has given him personal growth and the lessons he’s learned:

  • Accept people for who they are, as they are
  • Allow God to speak through me, when I’m at a loss for words, trust God
  • Don’t give up, otherwise who will intervene on behalf of the child?
  • The other STS mentors are amazing guys, and I humble myself to know they know way better than me in many areas, listen to them.

Another mentor gave this feedback:

For those thinking of becoming a mentor I would say “go for it”. It will be frustrating and rewarding. It will seem at times fruitless. But I guarantee it will help meet the need of a father in someone’s life. For those who are able to help financially, I want you to know that the staff that have vetted and now support the mentors are amazing people without whom the program would not exist. Please partner with Shoulder to Shoulder.

Whether you are of the mindset to join this dedicated tribe of mentors who have such profound impact on fatherless boys, or you want to provide financial support to help this good work continue, please help Shoulder To Shoulder continue on its path to helping break the cycle of fatherlessness. Your help can change the course of someone’s life. Please Donate Today.


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Imagine this life . . .

A young boy, 15 years old, living in squalor with his 41 year-old mother and 5 siblings (only one with whom he shares a father). He doesn’t remember his father who took off when he was just 5 years old, and his mother doesn’t really care what happens to him. She makes a habit of telling him she wanted to “flush him” (as an unwanted child) and that his father has legally disowned him.

He’s moved 7 times in 2 years (6 times within 6 months). He has been bounced around to live with some of mom’s friends but hasn’t ever had a real bed to sleep in. Finally he lands back with mom and 5 siblings living in a 1-bedroom apartment located 11 miles away from school. When there is money the kids take the bus to school, when there isn’t money they just don’t go to school. He is failing his classes.

Mom has now been diagnosed with cancer but doesn’t give any details to the kids. They don’t know what’s going to happen to her or to themselves and are scared.

Does this boy stand a chance at life? How does he cope with the reality ahead of him?

Fear and Desperation . . .

It’s hard to imagine how a boy living such a life can ever have a shot at happiness, success, career or marriage. He doesn’t even understand what that looks like. It’s not a part of his life experience.

At a point of desperation, this boy is matched with a mentor from Shoulder-To-Shoulder. They begin doing small activities to build common ground – bike rides, going to restaurants, outings to Old Sacramento and more. As the relationship grows, the trust grows. Friendly discussions turn to a strong bond, the boy looks forward to their time together and the mentor gives the boy a new perspective on life, a new understanding of the possibilities ahead and a path to find his way.

The mentor becomes such an important figure to this boy and his family that the mother actually opens up to him about her dire condition. The cancer has spread to kidneys, liver, blood and now brain. The kids don’t know any of this and she asks the mentor to explain to her boys what is happening. The mentor delivers the news that her illness is not curable and that time is precious.

New Perspectives, New Opportunities

Over the past two years life has changed significantly for the boy. His mentor got him enrolled in the Summer Math and Science Honor’s Academy (SMASH) at UC Davis. He also joined the Royal Ranger Junior Leadership Training program which is a Christ-based Boy Scout Troop. He spends weekends at his Mentor’s house and joins his family for church on Sunday.

Despite all of the positive influences, this boy still has obstacles that he is overcoming. His mother’s illness, lack of motivation at school, drugs in the home, etc. But rather than have to navigate on his own, he has a mentor who can help him understand the consequences and benefits to the choices he makes and help him find a new path for his future.

Help for the Future . . .

There are currently 27 boys waiting for a mentor. Without this person in their life, they may not have a chance at success in their future. Please donate whatever you can to help fund mentors for these boys in waiting. You can help! Donate Today.

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Set Backs and Breakthroughs

How can you escape when the past has such a hold over you?

It’s hard and it’s painful, but in the end it is worth it. For Joel and his mentor Dale, the signs of stress were all too familiar.

After having been a mentoring team for several years, Joel’s grades started slipping. He started missing meetings with Dale. When Dale got a message from Joel at the last minute that Joel would miss their third meeting in a row, he decided to investigate.

Dale was pretty sure that Joel was with his girlfriend. Circling the neighborhood, checking out Joel’s favorite spots led Dale to the dugout of the school ball field where he found them making out. Dale walked over and casually sat down next to them, surprising the couple. It was decision time for Joel. What would he choose? School or his girlfriend?

Rather than lecture Joel, in their next meeting Dale lead him through an exercise in dealing with distractions. As they discussed their distractions, Joel’s girlfriend was nowhere to be found. Joel was very reluctant to consider that his relationship with his girlfriend was a distraction. Dale tried to help Joel see how his choices would affect his future.

How do you move forward when people you care about don’t want you to change?

At first Joel refused to listen. Then about three weeks later Joel intentionally broke up with his girlfriend. She took it badly and diligently tried to get back together with him. It was a rough time for Joel. He was lonely without her. But Joel stayed firm with his decision to move on with his life.

On his own initiative Joel found, applied and got enrolled in a summer program at Sac State for criminal justice. Joel’s grades improved. He will graduate this semester and plans to attend Sac State in the fall.

About six months after Joel broke off his relationship with his girlfriend, Joel saw her at a school event and noticed that she was several months pregnant.

Joel realized that the baby could have been his if he had not made the choice to break up with her. He is grateful for the fatherly guidance he received from Dale, guidance that took his life in a better direction.

More boys like Joel are waiting for mentors. We need $50,000 by this Father’s Day to give 27 fatherless boys a chance at a new life. Donate Today.

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