Partnership Council Series #3: Access: Connecting Youth with Summer Learning Opportunities

Ensuring Boston youth have enriching summer opportunities that foster their love of learning and help stem summer learning loss has long been a focus at Boston After School & Beyond. The Summer Learning Projecta key strategy of the Boston Opportunity Agenda, has increased its reach over the past three years – from just  5 schools and 7 community partners serving 232 youth in 2010 to 40 schools and 17 partners serving 1,585  youth this past summer. This growth is a testament to the remarkable partnership and dedication of program providers and Boston Public Schools to serve youth in the city.

This effort also brings to light the number of youth looking for opportunities each summerHow many more youth are seeking summer programming? And how many of these youth and families do not even know where to look to find engaging opportunities?

This past summer, two groups took action on this matter.  Boston Risinganti-poverty group,  invested $600,000 for summer programs serving Grove Hall youth.  The Summer Fund, which provides over $1 million in grants annually to 100 camp sites, dedicated a portion of these funds to support program enrollment of students from the Circle of Promise neighborhoods.

Boston Beyond worked with both groups to identify high quality summer programs that would meet the needs of these young people.  A scan of BostoNavigator found summer programs in the Grove Hall area, such as Sportsmen’s Tennis and Enrichment Center (STEC). STEC alone opened its doors to nine additional youth ages 7 to 15 with the attention of Boston Rising and support from the Summer Fund. These youth enjoyed literacy and tennis lessons — all while developing teamwork skills.  The youth who received spots at STEC had an engaging week that challenged their brains and bodies, as all youth should during the summer months.  How many more youth would have benefited from such an opportunity?  This example highlights the importance of creating stronger systematic avenues for youth to have access to available opportunities for a summer of learning and engagement.

Without formal mechanisms to facilitate the transition from the classroom to summer opportunities, many youth and families are left without knowing where to look for quality summer programming. Just as the Summer Learning Project has been able to increase the number of opportunities for Boston youth during the summer, more partnerships and collaborations can be created across Boston. With so many summer programs willing and able to provide meaningful opportunities, no youth should be left with nothing to do over the summer.