Center for Community Service-Learning

Drop Shadow

Montgomery Intersession Academy

Montgomery Intersession Academy (M.I.A.) is a program developed in the 2011/2012 academic year by Bayside Community Center, the YMCA of Mission Valley, the Center for Community Service-Learning at University of San Diego (USD), and Montgomery Middle School. The program was inspired by a mutual commitment to providing Montgomery Middle School students with an authentic literacy experience and a chance to serve their own community. We, as a collective, wanted to offer students the opportunity to develop their reading, writing, public speaking, and presentation skills through a cohesive project that also developed character and leadership.

MIA mural paintingMIA journal writing

Montgomery Intersession Academy: 2012/2013
In the second year of the program, Bayside Community Center was able to secure grants that allowed for the January session of the program to have a photography component (USD alumni taught the photography workshops). We stayed tethered to the purpose of the program (literacy, character, leadership, service-learning), by using photography as a means for the middle school students explore their own community, looking for assets. Middle School Students then wrote an essay that reflected on the strengths of the Linda Vista community. We entered the essays into the Linda Vista Multicultural Fair essay contest and one of the M.I.A. students won 2nd place. Winning the contest and being recognized for academic success in front of her community, boosted this student's confidence in her own abilities.

The also students created a photography exhibit, featured in a USD gallery, on the assets found, such as: parks, cultural restaurants, community centers, schools, religious institutions, community gardens, the local farmer's market, family, and more. They each picked one picture to be included in the exhibit and presented as to why this photo was important to them.

MIA photo community circle

During the April session of the program, middle school students focused their service on Bayside Community Center's community garden. They built an aquaponics system, which is a fully functioning ecosystem that includes both fish and plant. They learned why a community close to the water would need such a system (over fishing). The students also created mosaic benches, which included words that represent the Linda Vista community. With additional grant funds, we were also able to take students on field trips to USD to instill a college-going culture, Camp Oliver to learn about different ecosystems and participate in community building activities, Mission Beach to have fun, and Kearny High School to see a fully functioning aquaponics system and learn from the high school students. The students wrote essay's on their experience during the month of April, read and wrote poems, participated in public speaking activities, created poster presentations on what they learned, and finally presented on the program in general and specifically aquaponics and mosaics at the Linda Vista Multicultural Fair.

Aquaponics structureClose up of mosaic bench

Mosaic Bench

Montgomery Intersession Academy: 2011/2012

M.I.A. began over two weeks of the January intersession. It opened with a personal strengths survey, which exposed the students’ areas of interest and leadership assets. The students, then, read about service, reflected on what service means to them through journals and family circles, and identified a service project to plan and implement. In order to support the academic literacy skills within this project-based curriculum, the 8th grade students wrote daily journal entries, completed a five paragraph persuasive essay, created a PowerPoint presentation (which the presented to the entire group of students and staff) on the proposed impact of their service project, and had the opportunity to hear various community members speak about the service work in which they participated.

MIA PhotoMIA March

From the January intersession process three service groups emerged (with the activities shaped by the students themselves): Pay it Forward, I Love a Clean Linda Vista, and Linda Vista Fair/Community Garden Project. In order to facilitate the planning and implementation of the projects, two YMCA staff members were assigned to each group. After January, the planning and implementation of the projects continued through bimonthly lunch meetings with the 8th graders, leading up to the April intersession period of the program.

During the April break, students reconvened to complete their service project as a team. During this time they saw their visions of improving the community come to life.

MIA Team PicturesMIA Posters

The Pay It Forward group chose to work with both elementary age children and seniors to get to know their own community members. The 8th grade students worked with an afterschool program at the local Linda Vista Elementary School and were assigned little buddies. They read to, tutored, and built friendships with elementary school children, which allowed the 8th grade students to be in a leadership role. The students also went to several senior lunches held at the Bayside Community Center to connect with, learn from, and build relationships with the elders in the Linda Vista community.

The I Love A Clean Linda Vista group chose to do a canyon clean up with community members from the Bayside Community Center and cleaned a local neighborhood park where many students like to spend their time. They also created fliers to post at the Multicultural Fair to raise awareness around keeping the community clean and painted messages of peace on YMCA facility benches. They wanted to paint messages of peace on area parks as well, in order to spread their message, but it took too long to get approval, hopefully we can honor their vision next year!

The Linda Vista Multicultural Fair/Community Garden group took on the task of participating in clearing a garden space and creating an herb spiral. The group also learned about healthy foods, what is beneficial about eating locally grown produce, and compared different life cycles. The knowledge they gained from working with an expert in community gardens, seeing different gardens in the local Linda Vista area, and participating in planting process itself, was then shared at the Linda Vista Multicultural Fair with other community members through posters, games, and by speaking to all those who came to their booth. The Linda Vista Multicultural Fair is such an important community event that all three groups ended up creating posters on their projects and attended the fair to talk about both M.I.A. and their specific service project.

MIA morning workMIA group work

The April intersession had great expectations as students accomplished more than the team project during the three week break. Each student additionally strove to accomplish the following components: wrote a narrative essay on their service experience, entered a community essay contest, produced three creative pieces (poetry and art), prepared and shared informational posters at the Linda Vista Multicultural Fair, created and presented PowerPoint or Prezi presentations on their experience in M.I.A., heard inspiring community speakers, and participated in a political candidate forum.

We were all amazed by the amount of work the students were able to complete, the energy each student brought to their work, the quality of what was completed, and the lessoned learned from their community engagement. In an effort to celebrate their effort, the 8th graders spent a day at USD, had field trips to the YMCA of Mission Valley, and the program ended with a celebratory barbeque where each student earned a certificate and gifts. Parents, YMCA staff, Bayside Community Center staff, USD students and staff, and Vice Principal Perdomo-Melendez of Montgomery all attended the final day of the program in a show of support to the 8th grade students. Of the 25 students that began the volunteer attendance program, 16 successfully completed all necessary components to receive full-credit for their end of year portfolio.

In their final presentations, the Montgomery Middle School students revealed what they learned throughout the program process. Many spoke of the difference they could make in their community, the friendships made with others in their own community, and the realization that they have the power to inspire others.

Partner Contributions

Montgomery Middle School

Montgomery Middle School’s Principal Ton and Vice Principal Perdomo-Melendez enabled the program to replace an end of year portfolio project and gave students extra credit for dedicated two weeks of their January break and three weeks of their April break to M.I.A. They also gave the partners access to the parents and students at Montgomery Middle School.

University of San Diego: Center for Community Service-Learning

USD provided a lead teacher, Natalie Zanzucchi, (a USD graduate student) who developed a project-based curriculum for the program that included the key pieces necessary to take place of the portfolio. Additionally, USD dedicated work-study students and volunteers over the April session to support YMCA staff, and organized and hosted a field trip to explore various facets of the university.

YMCA of Mission Valley

YMCA of Mission Valley provided team leaders who helped support the lead teacher in January, oversaw the service projects, managed the portfolio completion, and served as consistent staffing for the entirety of the program. The YMCA also provided the supplies needed for the poster projects and presentations, transportation for field trips, and field trips to the YMCA.

Bayside Community Center

Bayside Community Center provided the space for the program, access to their computer lab, access to community members and events (such as the candidate forum), conducted parent outreach, and provided daily supplies in addition to end-of-program gifts of backpacks and school supplies for the students.

MIA Poem

We know we have the power to inspire others. David Guido and Glayds Cruz, Montgomery Intersession Academy participants

MIA Presentations

MIA computer lab

MIA students work on their final PowerPoint and Prezi presentation at Bayside Community Center's computer lab. The students presented their final work in front of one another and all M.I.A. staff.

Click here for a speech written by M.I.A. student, Jacqui, on her experience with the program. Jacqu delivered her speech at a USD when the photographs taken by M.I.A. students were included in our gallery.

USD Article on MIA

Photo from Montgomery Intersession Academy


The University of San Diego wrote an article on the Montgomery Intersession Academy, during the January portion of the program. The story was written during the programs second year in existence, when we were able to get grant funds to support photography program.