Wednesday, 15. September 2021 15:55

WASHINGTON, DC, Sept. 15, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- As the summer season sunsets and a new school year begins, the National Summer Learning Summer Association (NSLA) – the only national nonprofit exclusively focused on closing the achievement and opportunity gap by increasing access to high-quality summer learning experiences – is pleased to announce the 2021 honorees of the coveted New York Life Foundation’s Excellence in Summer Learning Awards.

For more than a decade, NSLA has undergone a rigorous review process to find the nation’s top summer programs committed to joyful learning experiences, innovative programming, creative family engagement, and the health and well-being of the nation’s most underserved children and youth.

The 2021 winners are*:

  • America SCORES LA, Los Angeles, CA
  • Dance Institute of Washington, D.C.
  • Play Captains, Philadelphia, PA
  • Explore Memphis, Memphis, TN

*See program descriptions below

“Congratulations to these honorees who truly represent the best of the best summer programs in the nation. They have responded to this unimaginable crisis and delivered extraordinary creativity and leadership in serving students who truly needed joy, healing and safe spaces to learn and recharge,” said Aaron P. Dworkin, CEO, National Summer Learning Association. “Each winning program serves as a shining example of the best practices for positive youth development and family engagement, and we look forward to sharing their winning strategies with program leaders across the country as they plan for summer 2022.”  

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™ national 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.

“Each year we are impressed by the dedication these summer programs have to the children and families that they serve,” said Marlyn Torres, Corporate Vice President, the New York Life Foundation. “These are innovative programs that provide positive youth development and opportunities for growth for so many young people across the country. They illustrate the power of summer learning programs. Congratulations to all of the winners.”

New York Life Excellence in Summer Learning Honoree Descriptions

  • 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.
  • America SCORES LA Summer Camp – America SCORES Los Angeles (Los Angeles, California)
    America SCORES LA (ASLA) Summer Camp is a summer program that combines soccer, poetry, and service. The program was conceptualized to  address the lack of out of school learning opportunities for youth in Los Angeles and to advance the academic, physical, emotional, and social development of students. More specifically, ASLA 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.
  • 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 along with Academic Power Hours, which have shown an increase in students’ literacy skills. Wellness check-ins, nutrition guidance, and workshops featuring professional, legendary dancers are also offered to inspire students that a career in dance is obtainable. 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.

The Call for Summer Learning Award Submissions for 2022 opens November 10-December 15. Details will be posted in November. For more information about the Summer Learning Awards, visit

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 gaps by increasing access to high-quality summer learning opportunities. NSLA recognizes and disseminates what works in summer learning, develops and delivers community capacity-building offerings and convenes and empowers key actors to embrace summer learning as a solution for equity and excellence in education. For more information, visit 


Norma Kelly
JR Communications
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