America must hear the cry of pain unfolding across the land as we come to grips with the heartbreaking and shameful murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the countless lives that have been lost as a result of generations of systemic racism in this country. The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) stands in solidarity with our colleagues, partner organizations, and the families we serve in the fight to uplift our most vulnerable children so that they can realize their dreams, along with the promises of freedom and justice.
For more than 25 years, NSLA has focused on one achievable goal: investing in summer learning to help close the achievement and opportunity gaps that cripple our nation and hinder prosperity for all. In collaboration with a legion of youth advocates, we strive every day to elevate the importance of keeping kids learning, safe, and healthy during the critical summer months so they start the school year strong and thrive all year long.
But we know the field of opportunity – especially during summer – is a sobering picture of the have and have-nots. During the COVID-19 pandemic and traditionally every summer, low-income youth face the greatest amount of learning set-backs without access to high quality summer enrichment opportunities providing essential academic supports, food security, and safe spaces.
Without addressing the systemic and structural racial and financial barriers that exist in our communities, high-quality summer learning opportunities for growth, health, safety, and financial security will be limited to only families with access and resources to secure them. Now more than ever, investments in summer learning and afterschool programs must be an essential part of America’s recovery plan in order to break through generational poverty and to help more students move beyond the circumstances of their birth.
All those who work in the fields of education and youth development are in a unique and powerful position to disrupt our nation’s status quo and to shape a better America for our young people. We at NSLA, will examine and discuss our priorities and strategies, what more we can do and what we can do differently to be more effective.
We know summer learning programs provide a unique and safe space to tackle these issues, to listen, learn and explore the history and dynamics of systemic racism in our society. We know summer learning programs provide students and adults of different backgrounds the space to connect and students the chance to speak their minds and to engage around issues that matter to them. Summer learning programs also provide a unique opportunity to build deeper partnerships and new allies across all community sectors and domains of education.
Our mission is anchored in the belief that we must harness the power of summer to help every child grow, learn and thrive. Every mother, every father shares that dream. Now is the time to unite together to heal our collective pain, build more compassionate communities and to dismantle systemic racism for an America we can all be proud to call home.
Aaron, Laura, Leslie, Latisha, Brodrick, and Talon
The NSLA Team