The annual SAYS Summit is both timely and significant. It is well-documented that California’s workforce is projected to need an additional one million college graduates by 2025. To meet this challenge, California’s college and career pipeline must serve as a true pathway to post-secondary success for all California’s students. New data from the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) highlight’s major gaps in college opportunity for the low-income students and students of color who are the majority of California’s student population. Fortunately, programs like Sacramento Area Youth Speaks (SAYS) out of the UC Davis School of Education CRESS Center is creating bridges of opportunity for at-risk young people throughout the Capital Region. Research is clear: if we do not repair California’s pipeline to and through higher education, society as a whole will suffer.
To effectively pipeline students into Tier 1 research universities, it is important for young people to experience college first-hand. The SAYS summit at UC Davis is educational, experiential, and inspiring. It has has gained a reputation for being a model of youth engagement, innovative teacher professional development, and a youth-centered education. This one-day event includes serious educational activities: A-G workshops, intensive writing sessions, a keynote address, and more. All students receive resources about high school graduation, college opportunities, as well as culturally relevant literacy tools.
“Being able to attend the SAYS Summit,” remarks a special education teacher from Grant High School, “has been very encouraging for myself, and as professional development, it provided me with information I would not otherwise be exposed to… It is equally as beneficial to participate in the teacher only workshops. This past year, we were taught several poetic devises that I have been able to implement in my English and Science classes. The presenter herself was very dynamic and attention grabbing. …Although the literacy seminars that are conducted for us as a team are very beneficial, it does not fill the void of providing real life opportunities to observe student engagement, instructional observation opportunities, or the diversity of teacher collaboration. These are several of the reasons that I find teacher participation in the SAYS Summit at UC Davis an essential professional development opportunity.”
The Summit starts at 9 a.m. with Aztec dancers, UC Davis step teams, opening remarks from Deans and Vice Chancellors and a keynote address. Subsequently, students participate in community building activities and interactive workshops. In the evening, we host a showcase that demonstrates some of the best spoken word performance poetry in the region. By 9 p.m., teenagers are back on their school busses headed home.