Kids Left Out in the Cold for Summer Programs

Kyndal Williams (left) is in between her sophomore and junior year at Gotham Professional Arts Academy and has not been successful in finding a summer job. It's hard to keep her granddaughter busy over the summer, says Kyndal's grandmother Lettie Edgerton (right). (Photo via GothamSchools)

High schooler Kyndal Williams (left) has not been successful in finding a summer job, which also makes it a challenge for her grandmother, Lettie Edgerton, one of many guardians who must figure out how to keep their kids occupied this summer. (Photo via GothamSchools)

Kids really benefit from extra-curricular activiites such as getting a tennis coach for beginners but summer options for kids such as camps, internships or jobs lie out of reach for many of the city’s families, due to a lack of access to information, expensive costs, waiting lists and out-of-the-way locations, finds Emma Sokoloff-Rubin in an article for GothamSchools.

Parents often rely on schools to send out program information but how effective this is depends on how involved the school is in helping match kids with summer activities.

While the Division of Family and Community Engagement and the Division of Equity and Access of the Department of Education (DOE) send out details about summer activities to schools and communities, that’s where the buck stops. From there, it’s up to the schools to match students with openings.

The Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice (SLJ) in Downtown Brooklyn has hired a full-time “student enrichment coordinator” who sends out information on summer options and helps families with the application process.

Elissa Martel, who plays that role, said that if she hears about a theater camp, she’ll track down students she knows love acting and guide them through the application process. If the program costs more than their families can afford, Martel said she finds scholarships and helps the students apply.

“A lot of our students’ families are single-parent families,” Martel said. “Parents working evenings or weekends don’t necessarily have a schedule that’s conducive even to helping with homework in some cases, or going the extra mile and getting students involved in after-school or summer opportunities. It’s very time-consuming, and some of our students’ families don’t have Internet access at home or don’t have a computer that functions.”

For schools without someone like Martel, it’s up to “informal parent networks” to find kids something to do. Brooklyn parent Sheryl Davis’ daughters attend SLJ and has a jam packed schedule of volunteering and interning this summer, but she helps out other parents whose kids’ schools take a more laissez-faire approach to how its student body will spend the summer. Some schools may disseminate information about summer programs but the parent networks are what seal the deal.

One of those networks is run by Davis, who said she was struck by the experiences of colleagues in the customer service department at Con Edison, from which she recently retired.

“When I would go to work and say, ‘I’m going to see about this program,’ my coworkers didn’t know anything about these programs,” Davis said. So she started sharing any information she received through regular email blasts.

Parent Sharon Gross, whose kids attend Brooklyn College Academy, had received information from the school about programs but it was information passed along from Davis that did the trick.

In a recent message from Davis, Gross learned about CAMBA, a Brooklyn nonprofit that provides paid work for teenagers. Her twins will make $8 an hour as program assistants at a summer camp, where they will also receive mentoring. Last summer they worked at Long Island College Hospital, an opportunity Gross found out about through another parent on her son’s swim team.

“There’s so much that the kids can benefit from,” Gross said. “But if you don’t get the information or you don’t know anyone to give you the information, you can miss out.”

But even if parents find out about a program, other hurdles arise, especially when it comes to space and costs.

The only program she heard about from her daughter Sazidah's school, P.S. 93, was  too far, says parent Safwan Akhder. Her two kids will stay at home for the summer. (Photo via GothamSchools)

The only program she heard about from her daughter Sazidah’s school, P.S. 93, was too far, says parent Safwan Akhder. Her two kids will stay at home for the summer. (Photo via GothamSchools)

Community groups, such as Children of Promise in Bed-Stuy, also run summer programs, but Lakisha Adams, who lives in Flatbush, said the organizations typically give priority to kids already involved in their programming during the year.

There simply aren’t enough spots to go around in programs that are “affordable to the average person who’s struggling and paying more than half their income for rent,” she said.

Even parents determined to find summer programs said the demand for affordable options exceeds the supply. Bronx father Mohamed Sheriff said all the programs he looked into for his 6- and 12-year-old sons last year and this year were full. Both sons attend the Bronx Academy of Promise.

“Even the waiting list is so high. There is no hope they will be able to take either one of them,” Sheriff said. “I didn’t discuss it with the children’s school, because they don’t tell us about it and I don’t think they do such programs.”

By not being in some sort of summer activity, it’s not just academic regression that’s possible, it also puts safety on the line.

(…) As PTA president at an Explore charter school, Adams said she saw kids who had not attended summer programs struggle to re-adjust to the structure and rigor of a new school year. And “with the gang activity and all this stuff that happens on the streets, it’s dangerous and you want your kids in as much structure as possible,” she said.

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Do Parents Have Good Options for Summer Youth Programs in NYC? - The Haitian Times | The Haitian Times

  2. Pingback: Do Parents Have Good Options for Summer Youth Programs in NYC? : One Caribbean Radio | The Global Mix

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