Spring has sprung, and students will be out of school in a few months. For some, this means fun–summer camp, beach trips, swimming, and hanging out with friends.
Others struggle to secure basic needs such as healthy food and a safe place to spend their days. Many students also grapple with lost learning time—a deficit that can have long-lasting effects. By grade five, summer learning losses may mean some students fall behind their peers by two-and-a-half to three years.
Students who fall behind often have a lower chance of graduating from high school and pursuing further education without extra support. They may depend on school to receive meals and supervision, and find role models and structures designed for their success. During the summer, however, these vital resources may not be available.
This is why community support matters. Schools can’t do it all. Parents can’t do it all. A strong community invested in all students is necessary so that every learner is able to flourish in a safe and healthy environment. This is especially true in the summertime when lost school support means widening learning gaps for some.
When It Comes to Student Success, Community Support Matters
Let’s look at the journey of a student named Emily to see how community support matters.
- When Emily is just a toddler, her parents enroll her in The Imagination Library. Singer and actor Dolly Parton's Imagination Library is dedicated to inspiring a love of reading by giving free books to children from birth to age five. Funding comes from Dolly Parton and local community partners.
- Because Emily’s family qualifies for federal free and reduced lunch and meets other income guidelines, she is enrolled in ReachUp Head Start. She and her caregivers are supported with high-quality early childhood programming that ensures she is prepared and meets state literacy standards when she enters school as a kindergartener.
- By the time Emily reaches third grade, she is one of the 48% of students who meets that grade level’s reading standards. She accomplishes this by accessing homework help when she needs assistance through Around Cloud Tutors, a partner with United Way of Central Minnesota.
- The Boys and Girls Club gives Emily access to great after-school programming supported by United Way Partner for Student Success’ 21stCentury Community Learning Centers grant. This support grows Emily’s positive identity as a capable, confident person, able to tackle any challenge. She has no trouble meeting eighth-grade math standards in school.
- Emily graduates from high school on time and with a defined path for a successful career in a trade after she participates in the EPIC (Exploring Potential Interests and Careers) student event in tenth grade. She receives guidance from her mentor at United Way’s partner Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Minnesota. Her “big” encourages her to find out more about local employers and attend the EPIC Influencer event with her before her senior year of high school.
Community Learning Centers Help Fill The Gaps
In 2019, Partner For Student Success merged with United Way and became United Way’s education initiative. This partnership is designed to strengthen the education opportunities and goal-driven strategies within Central Minnesota. A grant provides the necessary resources, structures, and support systems to create innovative, systems-level change that better supports youth in our community.
United Way of Central Minnesota partners with other nonprofits across the community, including St. Cloud State University, Too Much Talent, Great River Regional Library and many others. This has resulted in a data-driven program that offers:
- High-quality content emphasizing positive identity development and skill-building.
- A coordinated approach to after-school programs that improves accessibility and equity.
- A chance for students to share their thoughts on how to enhance educational experiences that nurture more participation.
When young people spend a significant amount of time in good programs that give them positive experiences, they are more likely to succeed.Summer is a Good Time to Prep Students for Life In and After High School
While some see school as a safe haven with comfort and routine, for others, school may become much more complex and sometimes difficult to navigate. United Way Partner for Student Success strives to make sure every student has the opportunity to learn and grow both in and out of school. We work in collaboration with our partners to support career exploration, tackle educational barriers, improve graduation rates and help all students reach their full potential.
What You Can Do Support Students This Summer
Change does not happen in a vacuum. As the great Vince Lombardi said, “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”
Your individual commitment to support students over the summer can take different forms.
When you volunteer through United Way, you’re joining 1.5 million people who are giving back so others can get ahead. You can host a basic needs drive, participate in sponsored events, and contact our partners to see how you can help.
When you see something, do something. If you see or know someone who could use a hand up, share the 211 helpline. If you see a community problem, use your voice to initiate action to solve it. For those who wish to be part of the long-term solution, make a planned gift to United Way that will help others long after you are gone.
Of course, volunteering is a gift, and not everyone can afford to contribute financially. But if you are able, to donate, you can give right here on our site.
It’s up to all of us to support students not just in the summer, but every day.