SAN BERNARDINO - In 2005, two dedicated teachers began offering special classes for black students at the Boys & Girls Club.

They focused on creative writing and teaching students about their African American history.

This school year, at the request of parents and after seeing a need to improve students' math skills, the Ujima Saturday Academy will mostly focus on building algebra and geometry skills in addition to language arts and college readiness.

"Our primary goal is to raise math and English proficiency, and we will do that by tailoring kids to be successful in math," said Wil Greer, one of those former teachers, now a district program specialist in the Department of Equity and Targeted Student Achievement.

The free academy, which plans to offer more in 2008-2009, is open to all students in the San Bernardino City Unified School District.

Interested students must complete an application and sign a parent-student contract.

A parent meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Sept. 27 in the Professional Development Center office at Carousel Mall in San Bernardino.

Classes will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the first Saturday of the month at Arroyo Valley High School on Oct. 4, Nov. 1, Dec. 6, Jan. 3, Feb. 7, March 7, April 4, May 2 and June 6. There will be space in the classroom for 20 students in grades 8 to 10.

It was Greer, then a history teacher at Serrano Middle School, and his wife, an English teacher

at King Middle School, who first noticed the need for such classes.

"We recognized there needed to be some sort of culturally responsive structure to supplement our students' education," he said.

And with the support of other teachers and community groups, they were soon teaching lessons in history and language arts to about 10 middle and high school students in a classroom at the Boys and Girls Club.

By the 2006-2007 school year, they were running into parents who wanted the academy to offer more math instruction.

In the fall of 2007 they formed the nonprofit Ujima Learning Solutions Inc., which partners with San Bernardino City Unified.

In addition to the focus on math, scholarships will be given out to three students based on grades, academic improvement and community service.

"I feel good about the year ahead," Greer said, "and we intend to help a lot of students."