Education: Summer Learning

At United Way of Story County (UWSC), we believe that when we are United together, we can find solutions that make long-lasting, positive change in the lives of individuals and families, which is why our 2018 LIVE UNITED Campaign theme is “In order to live better, we must LIVE UNITED.” Because when we LIVE UNITED, everyone wins.
This month we are focusing on our work in education, specifically in the areas of attendance, school readiness, and summer learning. Earlier this month we’ve covered our progress in increasing the attendance rate and preparing children for school. To finish up our series, we will talk about the last pillar of our educational focus, summer learning.
It’s no doubt that when children are out of school for the summer, they may face a decline in learning if they don’t continue to be academically stimulated. It’s called the “summer slide” and it often affects children from families with low-income, while those from families with higher-income tend to remain constant or even increase their academic skills over the summer. For many students, it means losing two months of math skills and two to three months of reading learned during the school year. A study done by Johns Hopkins found that most students make similar achievement gains during the school year, but during the summer, children from families with low-income fall significantly behind their peers.
Our quest to conquer the summer slide started back in 2013 when our main goal was to create a Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) that would ensure children, especially those qualifying for free/reduced lunches, would continue to receive nutritious meals when school wasn’t in session while also being immersed in an educationally rich environment. Our first pilot program was established in Nevada and was held at St. Patrick’s Church. Serving just over 1,000 meals to 176 children that summer, students had opportunities to participate in educational activities from partners like ISU Extension, Story County Medical, and more.
Fast forward to 2018 and UWSC, in partnership with YSS, the school districts and many others, now offers programming in four schools throughout the county; Nevada, Ames, Collins-Maxwell, and Ballard. We’ve been able to impact over 1,500 children in the last five years, serving 24,000 meals last summer alone. 
Our original goal of feeding hungry children and hungry minds has been met and we continue to fill the gaps. Not only have we been able to increase meals offered by 23,000 but the percentage of students that gained proficiency over the summer went from 10% in 2015 to 21% in 2017. With most students losing 2 to 3 months of learning, remaining constant over the summer is considered a success, while gaining is quite the accomplishment.
Outside of the school setting, UWSC also helps to support summer enrichment sites at the Ames Public Library, Raising Readers in Story County (RRSC) Harrison Barnes Reading Academy, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Story County, all offering educational experiences at little to no cost.
Studies have shown that the benefit to a child after being involved in a summer enrichment program endures for at least two years after they attended. We know we can make a huge difference in our children’s future by continuing to expand the opportunities for free or low-cost, accessible summer learning programs throughout the county.
As we continue to create a community where all students are ready for school, attending every day, and learning all year long, we strive to make sure that all students have access to the building blocks for academic success. Your donation to United Way ensures that you are helping to make those possibilities a reality.