Currently, Give a Summer focuses on two initiatives -
- Help communities and schools better understand where and why kids miss out on summer programs
Leverage and enlist the work of mentors and other volunteers to help underserved kids take advantage of existing summer opportunities
We believe these are areas of great need with lots of opportunity for us to help. Below we describe these initiatives in more detail, explain the benefits of tackling them, and review why we think there is need for work on these challenges. At the bottom, we list a few other important goals around summer programming as well as some of the great work being done by other organizations.
1st Initiative: Help communities better understand where and why kids miss out on summer programs
What it entails
Learn where and why youth miss out on summer opportunities through comprehensive, regular surveys of youth and parents. Share these results with schools, program providers, and community partners to act on findings and build support for system-wide solutions.
Longer term, institutionalize these investigations into a yearly routine to track progress on expanding participation as well as to keep an evolving picture of where the need for summer opportunities and support is greatest.
As far as Give a Summer (or any of the many researchers we've talked to) know, no city or state in the US knows in any given year how many, where, and why kids do not participate in summer programs and activities.
The best information on youth summer activities comes from a national Afterschool Alliance survey of parents that asks if kids are involved in summer academic programs and if not, if parents would be interested in their kids participating. Though useful for advocacy and measuring broad progress, Give a Summer believes communities need more local information about where kids are missing out if they are to better utilize summer resources.
Additionally, the survey finds that although many kids are not able to attend programs, about 60% of parents whose kids do not attend academic summer programs would be interested in their kids attending. We need to figure out why.
The National Summer Learning Association has conducted assessments of summer program opportunities in several cities over the past years. These valuable reports clarify the cost, location, and number of low-cost summer program opportunities, as well as develop strategies for improvement. However, they do not identify where and why kids may not have access to or may miss out on these opportunities.
For example, only 42% of the kids who applied to but were rejected from a free summer programs as part of the leading and ongoing national study on summer program effectiveness were able to find another summer program to attend. We don't know why they could not attend, nor do we know the same for the countless number of kids who would like to go to a summer program but don't.
Finally, individual cities have sometimes examined the need for summer opportunities in one-off investigations of the out-of-school time (OST) resources in their community. Cambridge, MA has a good example from 2009, though the limits of its work is also telling: "In particular, more information is needed about the level of middle school youth participation in summer activities."
More effective summer programming
- Better direct existing summer resources toward most underserved communities
- Understand obstacles to attending summer programs so we (schools, summer programs, departments of education and city governments) can fix them.
- Identify parts of the community that are missing out on summer opportunities to improve outreach efforts
- Clarify need for summer programs to support advocacy efforts
- Increase accountability for summer program opportunities
- Demonstrate commitment to summer opportunities by working to understand them - what you measure reveals what you care about
2nd Initiative: Leverage and enlist the work of mentors and other volunteers to help underserved kids take advantage of existing summer opportunities
What it entails
The main work is personal outreach to kids and families by leveraging existing mentor organizations and other volunteers. That effort could be strengthened with better information on which summer programs are being underutilized and which communities are missing out on summer opportunities.
Different communities may or may not have available summer program slots and existing, effective outreach efforts. Nonetheless, from conversations with researchers and summer program agencies, Give a Summer believes that many communities underutilize summer programs. Additionally, from conversations with foundations and policymakers, Give a Summer believes that intensive, personalized outreach can reveal deep, unmet demand for summer programs.
- Help kids and families take advantage of existing summer opportunities now
- Cost effective outreach by leveraging existing mentoring organizations
- To mentors - Helping mentees find and enroll in great summer programs is a specific, tangible way mentors can help mentees. For in-school mentors, summer-focused work my increase mentor-mentee connections over the summer, making it more likely the mentor-mentee relationship continues in the next academic year.
- Through mentors and volunteers, educate more parts of the community about the need and importance of summer opportunities for young kids
- Demonstrate deep and underserved demand for summer opportunities to support further funding for summer programs
- Learn more about effective, personalized outreach approaches that become even more critical as summer opportunities expand in the future
We can improve and expand summer opportunities in other key ways, and other groups are already doing important work in these areas:
- Advocate for summer programs and expanded learning time
- Identify the characteristics of effective summer programs and how to implement them
- Develop networks of afterschool and summer providers
- Utilize expanding learning time approaches within schools
- Use technology (apps, games, etc.) to provide enriching summer opportunities