Nearly a decade after the Greater Rochester Summer Learning Association began providing a program for city students, the organization has expanded access to help more children succeed, according to local educators.
The success of these and other community summer programs was celebrated July 12 at the Rochester Central Library during National Summer Learning Day. The library’s Teen Center, which opened last year, serves as a site for older students to learn and develop business skills during the summer, explained Patty Uttaro, director of the Monroe County Library System and Rochester Public Library.
The library program is an example of Rochester’s leadership in continuing to expand access to summer programs for low-income children who might not otherwise have such opportunities, said Chris Neitzey, policy director for the New York State Network for Youth Success.
Because of the greater collaboration between agencies across Monroe County, representatives of the City of Rochester, Monroe County Youth Services and the Rochester City School District read a proclamation on July 12 to mark National Summer Learning Day along with hundreds of other cities across the country.
“Our community recognizes the importance of these opportunities for our youth and families,” read Daniele Lyman-Torres, commissioner for the city’s department of youth and recreation services.” Summer learning is a critical component of our collective effort to ensure all children and youth have a fun, safe and healthy summer while gaining valuable skills to enhance educational access and graduate from school prepared for college, career and life.”
Summer programs are especially valuable in an education system that tends to place too much emphasis on funneling resources to learning during the rest of the school year, Neitzey added.
“I’m really happy to say that is not the case in Rochester … (where) there’s a great emphasis on making sure kids have the opportunity over the summer to not only maintain what they’ve learned over the school year but continue to make strides and gains during the summer so they come back ready to learn,” he said. “They’re also further along than where they were the previous year.”
Additionally, high-quality summer programs provide a window into potential careers that children in economically stressed areas might not otherwise be exposed to, Nietzey added.
“Kids can’t be what they can’t see,” he said.
To provide these opportunities, the Greater Rochester Summer Learning Association was formed after the success of the Horizons at Harley program at the Harley School, explained Luis Peréz, president of the association. Since 2009, the program has provided academic support and enrichment activities, including swim lessons, to 120 students. Since then, the program has expanded into additional sites that include charter schools and several colleges, such as Nazareth College, Monroe Community College and SUNY Geneseo, with a goal of partnering with all 19 area colleges and universities, according to information at summerleap.net. The program also is open to preschool children at several early childhood centers in the city and students in foster care, according to the website.
“We’re going to keep moving forward,” Peréz added. “We know there are more children that can be reached.”