Philadelphia summer programs help kids get caught up ahead of fall; some still accepting signups

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — In August, some children dread the fact that the first day of school is only a few weeks away. But other kids in Philadelphia’s public schools never stopped attending classes, thanks to the city’s summer enrichment programs.

“Actually, I kind of like it,” said Saffron Cuarezma, who will be in fifth grade this fall.

Cuarezma is one of the children attending the Southwark School’s summer program in South Philadelphia. The school is one of the places where Philadelphia is deploying its new literacy program.

“Through the Office for Children and Families, we received a grant from the William Penn Foundation to expand some existing enrichment, learning and literacy programs,” said Maxwell Akuamoah-Boateng, who serves as operations manager for community schools in the Philadelphia office acts children and families.

The Summer Literacy Program is a two-year pilot program that promotes early literacy through educational and fun activities.

“Today we just went to the library and it was really fun,” said Cuarezma.

The city partners with Sunrise of Philadelphia to offer classes.

Being able to do this for our students during the summertime I think will put them in a better place in September,” said Jennifer O’Shaughnessy, senior literacy teacher at Sunrise of Philadelphia and full-time teacher at Southwark.

Filling the summer gap is a great need as many schools battle the learning loss from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID has certainly disrupted the flow of learning,” said Akuamoah-Boateng.

“We can pick them up right where they are… and build on that,” O’Shaughnessy said. “Just in the last few weeks I’ve seen them gain so many skills.”

The program keeps the kids busy while protecting them, which is an increasingly important task for the city’s free and low-cost summer programs.

“It’s been a really difficult summer with a lot of youth violence in the city. And the best thing we can do is provide these structured environments to the youth,” said Akuamoah-Boateng.

“It’s very safe to be in school because there are a lot of people you can trust here,” said Emam Bin, who is in 8th grade.

Bin also appreciates the fact that the program provides a learning edge before the start of the school year.

“You get an early lead,” he said.

The goal is to keep the momentum going after the summer to help kids not just get ahead, but stay ahead.

“When you see them take off,” O’Shaughnessy said, “there’s nothing more rewarding than that.”

The Southwark program is full, but the City of Philadelphia has several other programs that are still available. Most programs run weekdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and last until a week before the start of the school year in Philadelphia public schools. A list of the free and discounted programs that are still accepting enrollments can be found here: -in-a-free-or-cheap-summer-program/

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