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BPS, Boston Afterschool & Beyond offer expanded summer programming

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1990 and has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
BPS, Boston Afterschool & Beyond offer expanded summer programming
Sadie Soto Applegate leads the ESD Dance Troupe in a performance at the Mildred Ave. K-8 School. Banner photo

Boston Public Schools is teaming up with the nonprofit Boston After School & Beyond on an ambitious goal: enrolling nearly 28,000 students in summer recreational and enrichment programs.

Kicking off the effort Thursday at the Mildred Avenue K-8 School, BPS Superintendent Brenda Cassellius and representatives from youth-serving organizations detailed their plans to expand summer programming in an effort to help students recover after more than a year of remote learning and social isolation.

“This summer is the most important summer that I’ve ever seen in my entire career,” Cassellius said. “We have to get our kids fully engaged, and that means we are going to have to reach out as community members, neighbors and parents to make sure that every student … has a summer plan this year.”

BPS and Boston Beyond have collaborated for more than 10 years on summer programming. For this summer, BPS is investing $16.5 million to help support camps, recreational-based activities, employment, internships and volunteer-based activities.

Cassellius said the primary focus is on social-emotional wellness.

“It’s so important for us to be able to provide opportunities for our children to be able to connect and rebuild community and emerge from this really difficult pandemic year,” she said.

Academics will be woven into programming, however.

“We’re working to accelerate opportunities around academics and bridging those gaps that we believe we may see with some of the learning loss for our students,” Cassellius said. “We’ll be doing acceleration academies as well for older students. There’s opportunities for credit recovery, and for them to earn and learn at the same time.”

Various summer camps will be hosted in BPS buildings, City of Boston community centers and in facilities managed by partners in the Boston Afterschool and Beyond network, including YMCA buildings.

For the YMCA of Greater Boston, the summer program is an extension of the learning programs they maintained throughout the school year, which allowed students to engage in remote BPS learning during the school year.

Boston Beyond will host programs at locations including Ponkapoag Camp in the Blue Hills area, as well as in neighborhood sites across the city.

“Our goal is to make the entire city a classroom,” said Chris Smith, the program’s executive director.

Smith stressed that the programs will use enrichment activities — arts, sports and recreational activities — to draw students in.

“Enrichment is the key, because it drives attendance,” he said. “Enrichment and academics are interwoven.”

YMCA of Greater Boston President and CEO James Morton, who sits on the boards of Boston Beyond and the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, added, “It’s about getting students’ attention first, then giving them opportunities for academic enrichment. This summer is the most important summer for helping kids catch up. This is going to be the most important summer ever.”

The summer programming will be available to all Boston students, from BPS schools, private schools, parochial schools and charters.

Smith said that while the pandemic has added urgency to the push for summer programming, the need is always there.

“In some ways, it took a pandemic to show people what happens when schools close. We’ve been about that every year.”

Parents can sign their children up for summer activities through the Boston Public Schools website:

For summer learning opportunities:

Summer camps:

Youth employment opportunities:

Boston Afterschool & Beyond, BPS, Summer camp, summer learning, YMCA of Boston
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