New Vision for Summer School Spotlight
DREAM is a 27-year-old community-based youth development organization that serves more than 2,200 young people each year. Its mission is to provide inner-city youth with opportunities to Play, Learn, and Grow. We use the power of teams to coach, teach, and inspire youth to recognize their potential and realize their dreams. We are dedicated to serving low-income youth, providing quality educational and enrichment supports, and exposing them to college and career options that have allowed their more affluent peers to thrive.
REAL Kids is DREAM’s longest running program that has received national recognition for its impact on summer learning loss. REAL Kids is a free, six-week summer program for DREAM youth in the South Bronx, East Harlem, and Newark. In REAL Kids, youth in grades K-5 spend their summer on a baseball or softball team and participate in literacy enrichment and team-building activities to develop academic, social, and emotional skills in a fun learning environment. All program components are integrated to create a meaningful summer experience that engages youth in learning academic skills and building life-long habits. In 2017, REAL Kids served 746 youth across our three sites, and over 99% of participants successfully maintained or improved their literacy levels. Given the dismal summer literacy statistics for youth across the country, we are particularly proud of our work, year over year, to eliminate summer slide.
Participants’ days are filled with a holistic set of services that incorporate multiple pathways to learning. In the morning, they are in the classroom receiving academic literacy enrichment to avoid summer learning loss, as well as social emotional learning opportunities to build social skills and self-confidence. Academic activities, such as literacy centers and guided reading are enhanced by the use of technology including SMART Boards and Chromebooks. Children are not only engaged, but learning is made fun for them. Afternoons are spent on the baseball field where participants learn the fundamentals of the game and play T-ball, baseball, or softball with DREAM’s experienced coaches.
One of the unique program components of REAL Kids is that high school participants in grades 9-11 at DREAM work as REAL Kids’ assistant coaches and assistant teachers all summer long. The program employs 100 youth with paid part-time summer position, giving them real-world experience in applying for and succeeding in a job.
Summer programming ends with a very successful culminating event, an exhibition day, that brings out families to observe student work and then watch team performances and videos that capture the REAL Kids summer youth experience.