Friday, 16. July 2021 11:00

WASHINGTON, DC, July 16, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- In celebration of National Summer Learning Week, the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) is shining a spotlight on national models of summer learning excellence by announcing the summer learning program finalists for the New York Life Foundation’s Excellence in Summer Learning Award. This coveted award honors exceptional summer program models that advance creative family engagement strategies and a dedication to innovative, inclusive programming to meet the diverse needs of under-served learners in their communities.

“We know that this last year was exceptionally challenging for summer learning programs and there are so many that pivoted during the crisis and found innovative ways to keep kids learning, safe and healthy,” said Aaron P. Dworkin, CEO, National Summer Learning Association. “We are proud of the work that all of the applicants have done to support our nation’s youth with academic gains and social emotional learning during a year unlike no other. The program finalists are being recognized for exemplary exceptional programs that build confidence, leadership, drive passion and focus on physical and mental wellbeing for their youth participants.”

This year’s finalists include:

  • Explore Memphis – Memphis Library (Memphis, Tennessee)
    Explore Memphis is a library-based summer program that focuses on addressing the “summer slide,” improving kindergarten readiness, and increasing student literacy rates. Its main goal is to provide education attainment opportunities to low-income, at-risk youth through educational and creativity-driven programs. One of Explore Memphis’ most popular programs is its Tween Forensics Camp. Students also get to participate in engaging activities such as book clubs, cultural celebrations, writing workshops, and even escape rooms. As they transitioned online this past summer, Explore Memphis saw 8,200 students attend their programs and over 555,343 minutes were logged for their reading adventures.
  • Inclusion Across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented
    Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES
    ) – Hudson River Park (New York, New York)
    INCLUDES is a summer research internship program for high school and college students and is aimed at students that tend to be underrepresented in STEM such as women and girls, BIPOC, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. In INCLUDES, students get hands on experience with topics in science alongside professionals in the scientific community. Mentorship from both scientists and peers is an important part of this program that helps students develop their skills. INCLUDES takes place over the course of five weeks and concludes with a symposium where students present their scientific poster to both their peers and scientists.
  • LA Scores Summer Camp – America Scores Los Angeles (Los Angeles, California)
    LA Scores Summer Camp is a summer program that combines soccer, poetry, and service. The creation of this program came about to address the lack of out of school learning opportunities for youth in Los Angeles. This program aims to advance the academic, physical, emotional, and social development of students. More specifically, LA Scores focuses on improving English standardized test scores, self-esteem, teamwork, leadership, hours of physical activity, and community connections. Over the course of four weeks, students alternate between soccer and classroom-based literacy activities.  Students are also encouraged to take initiative and conduct student-led service projects right in their community such as cleaning up neighborhoods or feeding the homeless.
  • Play Captain Initiative – Fab Youth Philly (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
    The Play Captain Initiative is a summer program that partners with the Philadelphia Parks and Recreations’ Playstreet initiative in order to bring structured play to Playstreets. This is a program that empowers teens and trains them in leadership while also providing an enriching experience for the younger children involved. Throughout the initiative, children and teens rotate throughout Playstreets where they engage in play, participate in-group activities, and receive free meals. Play interactions are based on the Six Cs of Playful Learning (collaboration, communication, critical thinking, confidence, content, creative innovation). The mission of the Play Captain Initiative is to decrease summer slide, increase physical activity, and provide jobs for teens.
  • Spring Summer Camp – Spring Initiative (Mississippi Delta, Mississippi)
    Spring Summer Camp is an eight-week summer program that focuses on holistic methods to engage students. The main aim of the program is to challenge the negative self-identity that inhibits personal advancement and academic performance in at-risk youth. During their virtual summer, creative learning solutions such as socially distanced outdoor tutoring and pop-up classrooms were implemented. The program targets three growth areas: academic, personal, and exposure. Program activities like individualized tutoring, therapy, weekly Friday trips, and even overnight adventures encourage self-reflection, self-motivation, and a connection to nature.
  • Summer Dance Bootcamp – The Dance Institute of Washington (Washington, DC)
    The Summer Dance Bootcamp is a five-week program that engages high needs youth in dance, literacy, and professional development activities. This program offers Ballet Technique, Repertoire, Hip Hop, and Afro Fit as options for the dance portions. The Summer Dance Bootcamp also has Academic Power Hours, which have shown an increase in students’ literacy skills. Wellness check-ins, nutrition guidance, and workshops related to professional development are also offered. Progress is tracked through quizzes, journals, and portfolios. At the end of the program, students participate in a collaborative dance video and show an increased focus in their desired career path.

NSLA will announce the final winners in August (after site visits have been completed) and each award-winning program will receive:

  • A $10,000 donation, supported by the New York Life Foundation;
  • National recognition at NSLA’s Summer Changes Everything™ annual conference;
  • Connection to a network of award-winning leaders in the field and NSLA’s professional development opportunities; and
  • Visibility through national and local promotions, along with acknowledgment from their local elected officials.

For more information about the Summer Learning Awards, visit https://www.summerlearning.org/summer-learning-awards/.

About the National Summer Learning Association

The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) is the only national nonprofit exclusively focused on closing the achievement and opportunity gap by increasing access to high-quality summer learning opportunities. NSLA has experts and a network of partners, who can identify high-quality local programs to meet the needs of any learner, provide information on summer program practice and policies, offer tips for families and share the national context of summer’s essential role in education. To learn more about NSLA, visit summerlearning.org.


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Norma Kelly
JR Communications
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