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Level Up Stories and Videos

Students are Strumming Through Summer with Guitars & Ukuleles, in Free Level Up Enrichment Programs


Ukuleles and children are a match made in musical harmony. The size of the instrument fits perfectly into kid-sized arms, and the music seems to have an almost magical quality that can transport you to a tropical beach with a single strum of a chord. For one San Diego Unified student, it’s the ability to express yourself through music, where the true magic lies.

This summer, J.J. is learning how to play the ukulele and sing with classmates in the Level Up program Guitars & Ukes in the Classroom’s Summer Strummers Club at Alcott Elementary School.

“It’s fun being able to express myself in so many ways,” J.J. said. Playing music from throughout the decades with instructor “Rockstar James” every Friday is a bonus.

Students at several elementary schools are learning how to play the ukulele through the five-week Summer Strummers Club. Each student is given their own ukulele at the beginning of the program and encouraged to continue to make joyful memories beyond the summer.

The program encourages students to explore their musical abilities through song-based learning that enriches and deepens literacy, math learning and social-emotional growth. Students also learn movement, drumming, strumming, and participate in writing their own songs.

The Summer Strummers Club is one of the more than 90 summer enrichment programs offered at no cost to San Diego Unified students through the Level Up program.

Guitars and Ukes in the Classroom organization is a community partner in Level Up and offers the program at 16 schools for students in grades UTK-5.

Students Explore the San Diego Coastal Environment in Level Up’s Wildlife Day Camp


The San Diego coastline provides the perfect backdrop for students to explore the ocean and wildlife. The Wildlife Day Camp, a Level Up summer enrichment program hosted by the Living Coast Discovery Center, gives San Diego Unified School District students those exploration and learning opportunities.

Fern, the Solomon Island skink, welcomes students as they arrive at camp for a day full of hands-on adventures in the Sweetwater Marsh Unit of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge. Campers are guided through engaging educational activities based on science and conservation to inspire connections and care for the coastal environment.

“I think I might be a plant environment inspector, so I can see if any bad stuff is going on with the plants. Or, an animal helper,” Autumn, a camper and student from Boone Elementary School, said.

The Wildlife Day Camp helps students become stewards of their own environment by developing an understanding of how the local environment is impacted by its surroundings. From visiting a local wetland and sampling current conditions to visiting the crustacean lab and dissecting a fish, students are learning to become junior researchers in their own backyard.

Elementary and middle school students enrolled in the Wildlife Day Camp program dive in and explore the exciting world of ocean life through fun activities, up-close animal encounters, ocean crafts, and fun games. Students also learn about amazing animal abilities and join in friendly games to test how they compare to these skilled animals.

The Wildlife Day Camp is one of the more than 90 summer enrichment programs offered at no cost to San Diego Unified students through the Level Up program. Living Coast Discovery Center, a nonprofit organization and community partner in Level Up, offers the week-long summer program to students grades 1-9.

San Diego Unified Students Make Summer Goals with Level Up Soccer Program


Soccer is expanding in San Diego, and more and more students are developing a passion for the worldwide sport of fútbol. San Diego Unified has been ahead of the game, partnering with the Chicano Federation for the past three years to offer students access to the Soccer Academy at the Chula Vista Elite Athletic Training Center as a free Level Up summer enrichment program.

The Soccer Academy not only teaches students the basics of the sport, but also the fundamentals of leading a healthy life. Students learn about staying active, eating right, and taking care of their body, both physically and mentally.

Camper Lola, a student from Longfellow K-8, found that the camp taught her the importance of working together – a concept that has applications both on the soccer field and in the classroom.

“Soccer is a group project. Let’s say it’s like a school project,” Lola said. “In school, when you have a group project, you understand the other people: what they are trying to say, what they are doing. If you don’t work together and you use your separate skills you won’t succeed the mission that you want to succeed.”

During their time at camp, students also receive special visits from members of the local soccer team, the San Diego Loyal. Coaches, instructors and players stop by the camp to work on skills with students and serve as role models for future career paths.

Campers were recently treated to a special visit from San Diego Unified Superintendent Dr. Lamont Jackson, who laced up his athletic shoes and joined students out on the field for drills and a scrimmage. Superintendent Jackson has visited several Level Up programs this summer. He says it is exciting to see students engaging themselves, and expanding their knowledge outside of the physical boundaries of a classroom.

“These programs provide an opportunity for them to think about their own confidence, their own leadership abilities,” Superintendent Jackson said. “Students gain access to something that may be new for them, that they may have not thought of pursuing before.”

The Chicano Federation Soccer Academy is a 10-week program available to students in grades kindergarten through ninth, serving more than 200 students weekly. San Diego Unified has been able to offer more than 90 summer enrichment programs at no cost for students through the Level Up program this summer.

Students Explore the Zoo Wildlife in Free Level Up Summer Enrichment Program

Each week, the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance camp – a Level Up summer enrichment program – takes students out of the classroom and into the animal field. Campers experience unique animal encounters not available to the average park visitor, get a behind-the-scenes look at how the zoo is run, and receive lessons firsthand from wildlife experts.

Campers have no shortage of opportunities to stimulate critical thinking and engage their creative sides with weekly changing activities that include up-close animal interactions, art projects, traversing the zoo grounds, and learning about animals and their habitats.

Jefferson Elementary School student Lucien has been at the zoo camp every day for two weeks. Each day he has found different activities to enjoy, providing him with new experiences and insights on interesting career choices he never knew existed.

“I kind of like botany and other plant-based jobs, especially for herbivores,” Lucien said. “You need to know what the herbivores need because they don’t know that plant. It is like feeding yourself something you don’t know, you don’t want to eat it- because you don’t know what it is.”

The camp presents a special opportunity for some students who, despite living near the world-class San Diego Zoo, might not otherwise have the opportunity to visit the park. The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance camp allows them to not only see the zoo but also experience a side of nature not often found inside the urban sprawl of San Diego.

“If we had a classroom at the zoo, that would be my favorite,” Lucien said. “You could just go see the animals after class because you are right next to them. I have always liked the sound of nature and animals, it’s peaceful. Nature is very peaceful.”

The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance camp is available to students in kindergarten through eighth-grade, and includes hundreds of students each week. The partnership between the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and San Diego Unified is just one more great example of the educational opportunities granted to students through the Level Up enrichment program.