News & Press Releases
‘X’citement is in the air over summer and year-round mentor programs for youth with special needs
He had first-hand experience navigating the educational and social complexities of a speech impediment as a teenager. This made him the picture-perfect poster boy for an organization to guide youth through troubling times. Stefan Hochfilzer crafted those early life lessons into finely honed skills and surrounded himself with like-minded young educators to form the youth mentorship program Club Xcite. “When I was younger, I had a severe stuttering-like problem,” said Hochfilzer, president of Club Xcite and a native of Solana Beach. “I felt what I lot of kids we work with feel like because with a learning disability comes a lot of other issues in the social and athlet- ic arena. Kids who experience a learning difference or are bipolar or have social anxiety, it’s a lot harder for them in normal settings at school and at home.”
It was athletics, tennis exactly, where Hochfilzer, then 14, shined on the courts of Fairbanks Ranch with coach-turned-mentor Darin Bassett. “Through tennis I was really able to come out of my shell,” Hochfilzer said. “Darin was there to mentor and guide me in how to do that.” Then Hochfilzer began teaching tennis to other kids and working with them. “A lot of Darin’s philosophy of how to make whatever you’re doing with kids really fun and enjoyable and come through like in our program. Our program is an extremely unique organization. No one really does what we do,” he said. Unique to Club Xcite this summer is a program for children with severe bipolar disorder and their families who will be traveling from the East Coast to attend a camp. Xcite Steps is a new program for children with more severe dis- abilities that offers a genuine summer camp experience.
“The reason this organization exists, and the mission, is to focus on kids who have it harder than the average kids or teens that get left behind in school. These kids have learning disabilities, learning differ- ences from ADD to ADHD. Hochfilzer said these are kids who don’t necessarily have devel- opmental disabilities, but kids who might have a difficult time focusing or even mild learning disabilities. They may not be off the scale, but they are kids that would probably be nurtured and work better in a smaller group with more contact with their counselor. Caring for the nearly 70 children participating in the year-round programs are more than 40 men- tors, and many of them have come through the University of Califor- nia system as well as Point Loma Nazarene University, San Diego State University and other top schools. Hochfilzer, now 25, earned a B.A. in business from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.
“The basis of our program is our one-on-one mentorship program – all year round – that’s really the core of what we do,” he said.
“Camp Xcite is an extension,” he said. “It’s our summer camp for kids who don’t fit into the normal summer camp environment where there’s 30 to 40 kids running around. “A lot of kids have a hard time just getting out of the house and going to these things because they have anxiety or they’ve had a lot of past experiences that were bad. They are really afraid to go to those big camps,” he said. “This is a way to get them tojust have fun and a good summer camp experience like all the rest of the kids, just in a different environment. It’s a smaller group setting where mentors can coach them through certain social aspects, try to help them build friendships and relationships because, again, all these kids that we work with don’t have that many friends.
Kids today have their own set of circumstances that differ from when Hochfilzer was a teen. “When I was a kid, no one really talked that much about learning differences. There were more kids left behind essentially or labeled as ‘troublemakers’ instead of understanding that this child has a harder time,” he said. “I think now they’re getting a little bit better trying to understand who the child is, but there’s still limited services for these children,” Hochfilzer said. “What we see is parents fighting with the school systems to get what their child needs or getting placed in a special classroom. “There’s no good solution to help these kids and that’s why we exist, to provide that assistance after school to get the child back on track with homework or socially so they don’t get left behind. Hochfilzer said his greatest satisfaction comes from the progress the students and campers gain in the relationships they build with their mentors.
“You see that relationship with the kid and the mentor on an ongo- ing basis and most people in our program don’t leave, they stay in for the year,” he said. “All that is our motivation and gives us the energy to keep on going and to make a difference for more kids. It’s kind of a miracle to see these kids go from where they are to where they can go.” For information about summer and year-round programs and class- es, call (858) 779-9674 or [email protected] To learn more, visit www.exciteway.com
‘X’ marks the way, some fast facts about Club Xcite’s programs
With a little help from this newspaper, here’s a quick guide to navigating the Xs that are the Club Xcite and Camp Xcite programs of Stefan Hochfilzer’s youth mentorship organization. First visit its Web site at www.exciteway.com. Next, for questions and inquiries the site doesn’t answer, message Hochfilzer directly at [email protected] or call (858) 779-9674.
Club Xcite’s home base is quite literally Hochfilzer’s Rancho Santa Fe home and the mentors are sent directly to the member’s and participant’s homes during 1-on-1 after-school sessions contin- uously throughout the year. After school programs include mentoring, academic tutoring, athletic instruction, social and behavioral mentoring and weekend group programs.
Memberships cost $150 for six months, $220 for 12 months and $90 for a three-month summer membership. The latter is not to be confused with the weekly rates for Camp Xcite participation. Camp Xcite participants sign up for activities by the week. Monday through Friday, one day each week is designated for paint- ball, boomers, beach, community service and water park activities.
A week of camp cost $320 for club members and $380 for non- members. Campers range in age from 8 to 12 and there is a ratio of one mentor-counselor for every three children. There are five weeks of camp dates: June 25-29, July 9-13, July 23-27, Aug. 6-10 and Aug. 20-24. The drop-off location for camp is San Dieguito Park in Solana Beach. Exit Lomas Santa Fe Drive, go East and turn left at the four- way stop sign. Park on the right. If needed, counselors are able to pick up and drop off campers. The camp director is John Foletta who can be reached at (510) 292-7118 or [email protected]
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Phone: (858) 779.9674