From Dual Language Immersion to Science and Arts, El Sol Science and Arts Academy Charters Student Success

April 21, 2016

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For the past 13 years, students have graced the halls of the El Sol Science and Arts Academy, a dual immersion charter school focusing on arts and science in Santa Ana. From its humble beginnings as a kindergarten and first grade program, El Sol hosts pre-kindergarten through eighth grade students with enrollment growing every year.

El Sol Science and Arts Academy was founded when a local principal and educator from Orange County wanted to start a school that focused on arts and science, while serving the local immigrant community. The charter school became the solution for an area with an overenrolled student population at local schools. El Sol primarily serves the Santa Ana community, with 70% of its students living within a one to two mile radius from the school. With more than 1,000 students, El Sol Science and Arts Academy shows no signs of slowing its growth. The school is planning to add to its campus in order to better serve its growing student population.

El Sol's dual language immersion focus is one of the keys to its success because it sets the language foundation for all students whether they are English Learners, or English only. Essentially it ensures every student - regardless of language preference - is on an equal playing field.

"Because we are largely immigrant population, dual immersion allows Spanish-speaking parents to fully participate in the education process," said Monique Daviss, Executive Director of El Sol. "This is one of the main reasons people choose us. There are few schools that offer this."

Focus on Arts and Science
Art and science is part of the core of the curriculum of this unique charter school. All students get fine art training and have access to music instruction from pre-kindergarten onward.

"We do a lot of training in performance art and fine arts," said Daviss. "We emphasize performance arts like musical theater, instrumental performances, dance and drama. We want to make sure students have the capability to understand arts as a creative outlet but also as a training for presence, discipline and the beauty of working at creative ideas with small and large groups."

In addition to the classes they take part in during the day, students have access to a robust extended day program where they can learn even more and refine their skills with additional arts training in the afternoon.

El Sol has a particularly strong science focus as well. The charter school has a strong partnership with Sage Hill, an independent school in Newport Beach. Ninth graders at Sage Hill mentor El Sol's third grade students, bringing them into Sage's science labs to experience science in a hands-on way.

Another dynamic partnership is El Sol's collaboration with the University of California, Irvine's School of Nursing. Since the program's inception three years ago, nursing students come to El Sol classrooms and teach students about nutrition, germs and other health education topics. This partnership has motivated many El Sol students to look into joining the medical profession.

In addition to its health-related educational programs, El Sol is one of the few schools that offers an on-site health clinic that provides health care to sick or injured students and their families. The clinic plays an important role in academic success, as well as health. Daviss notes they recognize the link between the health and wellness of the families, and how that directly ties to the academic success of students.

Daviss is particularly proud of El Sol's student success. One of the students is now in her third year at Stanford studying science on a full-ride scholarship. Another student is in her third year as an engineering major at UC Riverside. El Sol has graduates at UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, American University in Washington D.C., and many more.

Success stories like this aren't uncommon at El Sol, due in part to the unique and exceptional specialized education available to all students. Daviss proudly notes, "We're transforming educational opportunities for our students, their families and the entire community."