It is very easy to think of education as strictly transactional – where teachers give information, and students are expected to reproduce that information on standardized tests. This ability to retain and present this information determines their ability to find success and stability in their life.
However, there is so much more to education than this. Education isn’t simply about presenting information – it’s also about being responsive to how students learn. Students need to navigate the social and emotional traumas and barriers they bring with them. Providing them with supports that ease stressors offers students the mental space and energy to engage in the learning process.
This understanding of education is the basis for Fresno EOC’s School of Unlimited Learning (SOUL). SOUL Charter High School offers both classroom-based and independent study programs. They provide a holistic learning experience for students and respond to each student’s skill set, knowledge, and way of learning. The holistic educational approach includes providing nutritional and hygienic products and supports, making connections with trade schools and post-secondary education institutions.
SOUL is in what was once a Jewish synagogue which was donated to Fresno EOC. Remnants of this once religious space are scattered throughout the building: from the Star of David on the front pillars, the silhouette where the replica of the Ten Commandments was placed, and the empty casing where past occupants had the centuries-old Torah. However, it would seem fitting that the school would be in this particular space. A space that has provided refuge while supporting emotional connection and community and provided learning, insight, and support in navigating a world that sometimes seems to be more intent on your destruction than your advancement.
One of the unique things about SOUL, however, is its staff. The cultural diversity of Fresno is evident in the staff, which speaks to an intentional effort to connect with students and families on a relational level rather than a strictly transactional basis. Relationships built through shared identity, experience, and cultural understanding only increase the likelihood that students will find success and build a foundation for the future that they want.
The teachers and staff at SOUL understand that the pursuit of academic success is not simply about textbook knowledge but also students’ experiences and the application of those experiences to the material. SOUL staff recognize the role of their school in the community’s success and know that they are at the forefront of Community Action.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, SOUL has implemented a parent communication network and started connecting students and families with other resources, including masks, hygiene and cleaning products, and clothes. They have invested in additional technology to support student’s online learning and continue to provide stability in a very unstable atmosphere. SOUL was among the first secondary programs in the county to safely open our doors back up to students.
On this National Teacher’s Appreciation Day, we recognize the work, commitment, and dedication to the community of the staff, teachers, and educators at the School of Unlimited Learning!