Program Profile: Burke Summer Learning Academy Shapes Young Men into Leaders

For students at the Burke Summer Learning Academy this program is “a great thing that has happened.” This summer learning academy supports sixty young men entering grades 9 and 10. For five weeks this summer, youth arrive at the Burke High School for a day of academic support, mentoring, and enrichment. This unique blend of programming aims to prepare students for school year academics, develop positive peer and adult relationships,  and become a responsible contributing member of the community. These are no easy tasks, but the dedicated passionate teachers and staff are working hard to achieve these goals this summer.

Following an arrival scene of handshakes and high fives, students are broken into two large cohorts to begin the day’s agenda. Beginning with academics students receive focused support in math and ELA. With some students being below grade level in these areas, the teachers are encouraging and patient, ensuring that each student is able to succeed.

In addition to supporting  youth in their academics, the teachers at the Burke see the summer as an opportunity to develop the youth into leaders and young men. That is just what the Diamond Educator Mentoring program does. Each day, the students circle up for “check-in.” Yelling out with confidence each young man “checks-in” and is greeted by his peers. Following this each student’s stands tall and says what they are grateful for and what they have learned at this program so far. The responses are eye-opening and highlight the many successes of this program. Students speak highly of the program saying they are grateful for “being referred to this program,” “the respect of their peers,” and “their family and teachers’ support.” Almost every young man credited Burke’s School Success Summer Academic Mentoring Program for shaping him into the leader he has become.

How does this program build these leaders? A major component is treating the youth with respect. One teacher explained that if the youth are treated like young men they will act like them. This mutual respect between youth and adults is evident throughout the day and contributes to a safe and welcoming environment. Building on the strategy of finding mutual respect, the young men are given time and space to talk and learn about what matters to them. Mentoring curriculum includes topics ranging from peer pressure, drugs and violence, and social media, all topics that are affecting these youth daily. The goal behind this curriculum is to provide youth a safe space to discuss these issues freely and learn that there are caring trustworthy adults around to support them.

The academics and mentoring aren’t all that the Burke Summer Learning Academy has to offer. The last two hours of each day are dedicated to enrichment activities. Students are spending the summer learning about community service with Burke’s partner Build On, the future of technology with GE Brilliant Career Labs, and other exciting topics in weekly field trips. In each of these enrichment activities students are supported as they explore new areas of interest and meet new people.

As the program wraps up this coming week, students are leaving with a sense of ownership and pride as well as taking away meaningful lessons. For many of these students, this program has helped them feel supported, see their goals, and know that to be successful one has to “keep going, persevere, and never give up.”