For too many Connecticut children, summer is a time of boredom, idleness, stagnation, and inactivity. A lack of opportunity and resources, difficult family circumstances, a need to watch younger siblings—there are plenty of reasons that can make summer a season for learning loss, weight gain, and apathy, according to Why Summer Matters, a report by the CT After School Network.
For many children summer is also a lost opportunity to maintain and build on the learning they received during the school year. The CT After School Network report states that summer learning loss is cumulative, and if not addressed, leads to significant achievement gaps between low-income students and their peers from higher-income families. That is why the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving has a long history of supporting summer programs with grants dating back to the 1930s. More than $5 million has been awarded for these programs just in the last seven years. In 2018 alone, the Hartford Foundation awarded $805,300 in grants so that more than 10,000 school age youth in Greater Hartford can participate in summer learning programs. These grants support 57 programs, operated by 44 agencies, and include more than 2,800 free or reduced-fee camperships. The Hartford Foundation targets summer program funding to support the participation of youth from Hartford and East Hartford and those with disabilities from throughout the Greater Hartford region, most with free or at reduced rates.
Hartford resident Alma Lara and her family have benefitted from this funding and these programs for years. Her mother passed away just before she turned 18, leaving her with foster custody of her two younger brothers. Since Alma was going to school and working to support her siblings, her brothers had nothing to do and no place to go in the summer until she found Hartford’s Camp Courant. Lara’s three boys, ages five, six and nine now carry on the tradition of their uncles and spend their summers at camp as well. “Camp Courant is great. It’s for Hartford residents and it’s free. While I am at work I know that my boys are safe and in good hands,” shares Lara. “They love all the camp activities, especially the learning they receive in the computer room, plus they make lots of new friends. If it weren’t for Camp Courant, summer would be very stressful and my kids would have nothing to do while I am at work.”
A directory of the summer learning programs, produced by the Hartford Foundation and Hartford Public Schools, can be found at Hartford schools, local libraries and community centers. The directory, produced in English and Spanish, describes many of the summer programs funded by the Foundation. It also includes descriptions of the wonderful mix of family activities offered by the City of Hartford Department of Families, Children, Youth & Recreation (including area pool and recreation schedules), the Hartford Public Library, local museums, as well as information about the Foundation’s Family Centers, workforce training opportunities for adults and youth, and much more. This directory is also available for download at www.hfpg.org/summer or https://www.hartfordschools.org/summer2018/.
“The Hartford Foundation’s investment in summer programs relates directly to its strategic focus on improving education success for the region's students by working to prevent summer learning loss, a key component to reducing the education achievement gap,” said Judith McBride, the Hartford Foundation’s director of Grants and Partnership Investments. “We publish this directory in collaboration with Hartford Public Schools to ensure that families know about the summer learning opportunities available. Our funding also focuses on enhancing activities that support continued learning and youth development. This includes enhancing literacy efforts by increasing access to age-appropriate books and integrating the use of local libraries and educational field trips to reinforce the skills developed in the programs and during the school year.”
As Alma Lara shared, these summer learning programs not only offer parents a safe, fun, affordable option for their children to interact with other children their age, they also support summer learning in a variety of ways. By promoting reading, writing and other learning activities, programs supported by the Foundation are designed to help prevent summer learning loss by helping students retain and build on skills gained during the school year and help them grow developmentally. “The research is clear,” says the CT After School Network, “High-quality summer programs make a difference and can eliminate ‘the summer slide.’”
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding communities. Made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations, the Foundation has awarded grants of more than $720 million since its founding in 1925. For more information about the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, visit hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.