Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Leveraging Summer Programs: A Downpayment on Long- Term Change

Source: www.afterschoolalliance.org

Some young people are now returning to school, in a face- to- face or hybrid model. This after a full year of isolation. This fall youth are likely returning to school full time. Summer programs will be an important gateway to returning to school and healing from a year of isolation. 

Below we offer excerpts from an article authored by Karen Pittman with the Forum for Youth Investment on the importance of summer programs in 2021. Please note: this is just an excerpt from her article posted from Medium.com. You can read the entire article here.

Almost a full year into the COVID-19 pandemic, we once again find ourselves at a critical juncture. As we head into the spring, schedules are still uncertain. But there is growing confidence schools will reopen in the fall. 

With this anticipation of reopening, there is broad commitment to build back better. There is increased recognition of the role that community partners and families can play and that the impact of the last year on teens and young adults will have lasting ramifications. COVID and the racial reckonings have exposed inefficiencies and inequities. This means we are now face to face with a tangible opportunity to challenge and support school districts and community partners in creating equitable learning and development ecosystems that unleash the potential of all learners, recognize the power of all committed adults, and optimize all learning settings and approaches. 

If we are truly intent on not going back to normal, we must recognize the interdependence of systems and center on young people and their families. To do so, school and community leaders must work collaboratively to reflect and take stock to identify innovations and understand roadblocks, look at the ways school, family, and community leaders worked or did not work together, and hear the lessons learned from students, families, and front-line staff. 

Source: www.medium.com
While we saw pockets of exceptional supports for young people and innovation, for the most part young people went without opportunities to connect in meaningful relationships, without opportunities for engaging learning experiences, and without summer jobs to earn money critical to their future goals. 

Summer 2021 shouldn’t look like 2020. The young people across the nation deserve more. It also shouldn’t look like summers of years past. Summer has traditionally been a time when schools stepped back, families stepped in and community organizations stepped up. This division of labor made sense because the stakes are not only lower in summer (no requirements, no grades, no tests) and the success metrics are different (keep academic skills sharp while having fun, mastering new skills, taking on family responsibilities, having different experiences). If we are intent to Build Forward Together our roles in and focus on summer will have to shift. 

This summer can begin to preview “the new normal” and to make a down payment toward the equitable learning ecosystems we hope to create. Where instead of some stepping back and others stepping in, we see communities working collaboratively. We are confident there are many communities that see value in finding some way to use Summer 2021 to document, design, test, or even scale up some ways to BUILD FORWARD TOGETHER to make a down payment on the idea that by the summer of 2022, every student should have equitable opportunities for learning and development because every young person and their family has the support needed to create learning pathways across the ecosystem that are attractive, accessible, affordable, appropriate, affirming, and assessable. 

The Readiness Projects are challenging local school, government and community leaders to: 
  1. Use summer as a low-stakes testing ground to document, test, and scale different ways to leverage school, family, and community assets in support of accelerated learning and development that can help us build forward together post-COVID. 
  2. Prioritize children and youth most challenged by the pandemic who are also the least likely to have resources for summer programs. 
  3. Place focused attention on teens, especially those whose success trajectories are threatened. 
  4. Ask how you will know how many young people had great summers and why, so you can bring that data into the school year and have a baseline for improvement in 2022. 
After a full year of learning isolation, young people are just now returning to school, in a face- to- face or hybrid model. This Fall youth are likely returning to school full time. 

Summer youth programs will be an important gateway to returning to school and healing from a year of isolation. But how should we be thinking about our gateway summer youth programs? What do youth need from their summer program experiences? How will this year's summer programming differ from past years?

On Friday, May 7, 2021, we are sponsoring a Speaker's Forum/ webinar discussion on this topic. It will be facilitated by Ayala Goldstein (Director of Programs, California School- Age Consortium). She will be joined by Aaron Dworkin (CEO of National Summer Learning Association), Autrilla Gillis (Director of Expanded Learning, ISANA Academies) and other summer program experts and practitioners who will be sharing their thoughts and responding to your questions. To register and learn more, click here.


Karen J. Pittman
served as the President & CEO of the Forum for Youth Investment (FYI) until February 2021 then transitioned to a senior fellow role to dedicate more of her time and energy to thought leadership. FYI is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan “action tank” that combines thought leadership on youth development, youth policy, cross-system/cross-sector partnerships and developmental youth practice with on-the-ground training, technical assistance and support. Karen is a respected sociologist and leader in youth development. Prior to co-founding the Forum in 1998, she launched adolescent pregnancy prevention initiatives at the Children’s Defense Fund, started the Center for Youth Development and Policy Research, and served as senior vice president at the International Youth Foundation. She was involved in the founding of America’s Promise and directed the President’s Crime Prevention Council during the Clinton administration. 

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