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    Julie Birkett, YMCA’s “Find My Genius” Teacher/Site Director, Named BellXcel’s “Educator of the Year”

    Julie Birkett, YMCA’s “Find My Genius” Teacher/Site Director, Named BellXcel’s “Educator of the Year”; Las Virgenes Unified School District Donates $100,000 to the YMCA Summer Learning Program

    Julie Birkett, fourth grade teacher at Sumac Elementary School in Agoura Hills and teacher/Site Director at the Southeast Ventura County YMCA’s “Find My Genius” summer learning program, was named “Educator of the Year” by BellXcel. BellXcel partners with school districts and community-based organizations to help close the education gap for students who are not performing at grade level. Birkett was selected out of over 1,000 teachers nationwide.

    Birkett’s award was announced at a Zoom YMCA board meeting on Tuesday, March 16.

    “We are so excited to honor Julie as our Educator of the Year. She personifies the very best of summer learning across the country,” says Kris Murray, BellXcel associate vice president.

    BellXcel selects one educator to honor each year who consistently demonstrates excellence and commitment to the programs and kids they support. “What makes Julie special is that she also brings her whole heart to her summer program. The young scholars know that she cares for and respects them, and her colleagues are inspired by her commitment to scholar success,” says Murray.

    Find My Genius is a five-week summer program sponsored by the Southeast Ventura County YMCA, the Conejo Valley Unified School District and the Las Virgenes Unified School District for youngsters entering kindergarten through sixth grade. This achievement gap program is offered at no cost for low-and moderate-income students who are not reading at grade level. Scholars attend the program at Yerba Buena Elementary School and Sumac Elementary School.

    Last year, Find My Genius participants gained an average of more than 3 months in language and math skills during the summer program.

    At the board meeting, the Las Virgenes Unified School District announced it is providing $100,000 in scholarships to Find My Genius. This will enable an additional 40 scholars to participate from the district. A total of 240 youngsters will be enrolled over the summer (120 students from both CVUSD and LVUSD).

    “We’ve seen firsthand the difference that Find My Genius makes in the classroom,” says Dr. Dan Stepenosky, Las Virgenes Unified School District superintendent. “Dedicated teachers like Julie make all the difference. We hope Find My Genius continues to grow. It’s a much needed program to offset summer learning loss.” 

    “Our Find My Genius teachers and directors are dedicated to helping our scholars thrive and advance in a fun and encouraging setting. Julie plays a big role in the program’s success,” says Ronnie Stone, President and CEO of the Y. “The work done over this summer will be doubly important due to the academic loss experienced due to COVID. We are very grateful for the Las Virgenes Unified School District grant. It will change the educational direction of 40 youngsters.”  

    Participants are nominated by teachers in their school districts. The program begins in-person learning on June 28.

    About Find My Genius, Southeast Ventura County YMCA

    Find My Genius is a no-cost summer learning program launched by the Southeast Ventura County YMCA in 2018 to help children catch up, stay on track or get ahead on their reading and math skills while providing summer camp fun. To qualify, children must be on free or reduced-priced lunch program, score below grade level and recommended by their teachers in the Conejo Valley and Las Virgenes unified school districts. For more information, visit

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