UO’s SAIL program raising funds for its free summer academy

SAIL class outdoors

The University of Oregon’s Summer Academy to Inspire Learning program, or SAIL, is operating virtually this year, and it’s also turning to the internet to help keep the program free for hundreds of high schoolers from around Oregon.

A Duckfunder launches July 6 with a goal of raising $20,000 in two weeks, ahead of the program’s July 27 start.

This year will be the second time a Duckfunder is activated for SAIL, a week-long college preparatory experience. The program raised $17,500 in a Duckfunder campaign in 2015, a gift that was matched by an anonymous donor to contribute a total of $35,000 to the program.

A match this year will double funds if $10,000 is raised. Suggested giving levels on the Duckfunder range from $20 to $5,000.

In addition to employing college-age students as counselors, SAIL relies on hundreds of UO faculty and staff members who volunteer their time to make the “exemplary and innovative” summer academy possible, executive director Lara Fernandez said.

“SAIL showcases the university’s core belief that higher education can indeed create a broader impact by increasing career opportunities and earning potential, and changing the trajectory of underrepresented Oregonians currently living in poverty,” she said.

Entering its 15th year, the academy was created by UO faculty members, who volunteer annually. They wanted a fun way to support and encourage making college dreams a reality for economically disadvantaged, first-generation and underrepresented students across the state.

A recent program evaluation showed that participation in SAIL doubles the likelihood that a student will attend and succeed in college. SAIL also offers scholarships for students applying to college and mentoring to high school students throughout the school year.

The summer program, which normally has several one-week residential sections, will be offering a single week of virtual programming this year. Online registration is now open for one of several Flight Paths, which are academic-focused electives that let students explore their interests.

The flight paths are media, arts and expression; psychology; healthy communities; scientific discovery and sustainability; global connections; industry, entrepreneurship and innovation; public policy, society and identity; and OrchestraNext.

In addition to electives with faculty members, advising office hours and dedicated time for college preparatory activities, students are invited along with their friends or families to a daily “rise and shine” activity in the morning and a cultural activity such as a cooking demonstration in the afternoon. Any SAIL donor would also be welcome to use Zoom to attend the virtual offerings, which are for the benefit of the whole community, Fernandez said.

“UO’s SAIL is about doing the right thing: providing our communities with access to higher education through awareness and knowledge about the college process, and providing the tools, mentorship, resources and networks to make college a reality for youth across Oregon,” she said.

One current UO student and SAIL alumnus, Juanita Dominguez, shared her story on the Duckfunder site.

“Being a first-generation Latinx student, I was very confused on applying for college and didn’t think a person like me would ever be successful at a higher education institution,” Dominguez said. “Having the sense of security in already knowing the UO was the push I needed in applying.”

Now Dominguez is just two years away from completing her bachelor’s degree and said she’s proud of her progress and thankful for the opportunities SAIL gave her.

“I never realized just how much of an impact a one-week summer camp could have on me and my future endeavors,” she said.

By Anna Glavash, University Communications