As the summer for students at the University of Southern California begins, the school year is still winding to an end for kids within the Los Angeles Unified School District. When I was in middle school and high school, those three months of summer break that laid ahead of me were ideal for spending all of my time outside in the warm weather or watching as many hours of Disney Channel as I could. But in City Hall and among officials at LAUSD, they are hoping that Los Angeles’ students’ summer schedules will be filled with more educational and career-focused activities than they have in the past.
Last week, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the creation of the Summer of Learning program. The program, which is directed at both younger and older students, is a partnership between his office and LAUSD that aims to enhance their science, technology, engineering, arts and math skills, as well as provide them with job-readiness training, according to the Los Angeles Times. The program will be structured through both online and in-person classes. The program website went live yesterday, and sign-ups for those classes will begin June 6.
During the announcement of the new summer program, the mayor of the city with the nation’s second-largest school district said that it was imperative for students to be involved in a structured program, similar to school, over the summer. “We imagine that we all start at the starting line as equals, but we don’t. The Summer Learning program will seek to close a gap across the city, based on your ZIP code,” Garcetti said.
Based off of the number of students who receive free or reduced meals at LAUSD schools, more than 80 percent of the students eligible for this summer program come from low-income families. Many of the families cannot afford to send their students to expensive summer camps. Therefore, the Summer of Learning is an ideal opportunity to provide a summer camp experience to students while also incorporating educational institutions and using the city as the classroom. Mayor Garcetti said the program would include outings to classic Los Angeles spots, such as the Getty Center.
Though traditionally summer was viewed as a break from the rush of school, many are beginning to view these three untarnished months as an opportunity to catch up on, get ahead in and review lessons that are not given enough time during the regular school year. With these changes in the pace of the world and the extra demands being put on children, the new summer program offered to Los Angeles students is essential to keeping the city a bustling and educated one.
A summer program like this is also valuable because it aligns with the goals of the school district and larger goals of the city as a whole. The city has been debating and testing ways to close the digital gap between students from disadvantaged neighborhoods and more privileged areas for several years. The recent failings and setbacks from the iPad rollout in the beginning of the 2013-14 school year was part of this. With the digital aspect of the Summer of Learning program, however, students will receive digital badges to track their progression and successes. This will lead to more students using technology during their time off from school — a time that might have had certain students go without access to technological tools like some of their other counterparts.
According to the American Camp Association survey from 2011, 63 percent of parents who had students involved in camp and enrichment programs over the summer said that their child continued to participate in the activities they learned at camp. In the same vein, the more students involved in the Summer of Learning program learning key skills in the arts and sciences as well as picking up interviewing and cooking skills, the more young adults there will be in the city developing those skills year-round. Hopefully this will lead them down career paths, or even to lifelong passions and hobbies.
For a program like this to be successful, support from all sectors of the city has to be behind it.
Therefore when the city and mayor’s office begin offering summer programs for all students, the city must take heed. When investments in the future — through educating and nurturing Los Angeles students all year round — are made, then everyone has an obligation to make sure the program is working to its best ability, reaching out to as many students as possible and actually preparing the minds of the city’s future stakeholders for the coming years.
Jordyn Holman is an incoming junior majoring in print and digital journalism. Her column “Making the Grade” runs Wednesdays.