By Erin Porteous, CEO

Summer is finally here, and unlike the entirety of 2020, this is the first season where we are looking ahead as adults (and kids) and feeling some normalcy. On the precipice of warmer days, longer evenings and the saga of trying to figure out how to keep my own kids occupied, entertained, safe and healthy, I’m reflecting on the experiences that made my summer days special when I was growing up. And while they didn’t involve a classroom or homework, they were filled with moments of learning, growth, adventure and opportunity. Whether it was the alarm going off at 6:15 a.m. every day so my brother and I could bike to swim team practice, babysitting to save up for my first leather bomber jacket, or the parent-imposed “homework” of having to read ten books before summer was over, there was a healthy balance of structure, commitment, learning, fun and plenty of time outdoors.

By Erin Porteous, CEO

Summer is finally here, and unlike the entirety of 2020, this is the first season where we are looking ahead as adults (and kids) and feeling some normalcy. On the precipice of warmer days, longer evenings and the saga of trying to figure out how to keep my own kids occupied, entertained, safe and healthy, I’m reflecting on the experiences that made my summer days special when I was growing up. And while they didn’t involve a classroom or homework, they were filled with moments of learning, growth, adventure and opportunity. Whether it was the alarm going off at 6:15 a.m. every day so my brother and I could bike to swim team practice, babysitting to save up for my first leather bomber jacket, or the parent-imposed “homework” of having to read ten books before summer was over, there was a healthy balance of structure, commitment, learning, fun and plenty of time outdoors.

Experiences like these not only define what it means to be a kid, but they are also absolutely essential for children’s development. And in fact, the experiences of summer play a pivotal role in supporting kids all year round.

The research supports this. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) reports that summer affects the development of children across four key areas: safety, risk-taking and anti- and pro-social behavior; physical and mental health and health-promoting behaviors; social and emotional development; and academic learning and opportunities for enrichment.  

So, while summer is undoubtedly meant to be fun, it’s also extraordinarily important for every childIt is even more pivotal because it can either exacerbate or ameliorate existing inequities. NASEM shares that children that are limited by their social, economic, or physical environments during the summer months are at higher risk for worse academic, health, social and emotional, and safety outcomes. In contrast, structured summertime activities and programs support basic developmental needs and positive outcomes for children and youth who can access and afford these programs.” 

This is where Boys & Girls Clubs come in. By closing the access and affordability gaps, we are able to support the essential needs and the intrinsic potential of every child who walks through our doors. Inside our Clubs, our kids have a safe place to try new things, take risks, explore, imagine, and build confidence: all of these are skills that show up later in the classroom and in everyday life. They are the building blocks that help to construct a balanced and beautiful life for every child and every adult. 

These experiences are what we have provided for our Club kids for 60 years, through every summer break and every school day. And this summer, our Clubs are more necessary than ever. Because the “summer slide” has evolved into the COVID slide, and the ramifications are just beginning to be understood.  

While we know that so many children have missed out on key academic learning, they’ve also missed out on crucial social opportunities. recent article from the Denver Post reports, “As districts work to address learning gaps caused by the pandemic, parents say the biggest thing their kids lost to the pandemic were the social relationships they typically build while in school. Though the long-term impacts of the pandemic on students’ academic and mental well-being are yet to be understood, neither is going to be a quick fix. 

That’s why our work at Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver is more important than ever before. Along with our youth development partners and peers across the city, we are committed to supporting Denver’s kids and families this summer and beyond. We’ll do it by providing safe places for kids to build relationships with trusted adults, where they can make new friends and reconnect with old ones. They’ll have abundant opportunities to be active and thrive, both mentally and physically. And the secret’s probably out – but all of this will also be F-U-N! 

Because it’s not just about closing opportunity gaps, it’s also about nurturing potential and wonder. It’s about creating memories that kids can look back upon with a smile, because we believe every child deserves the chance to just be a kid, especially in the summertime. 

 

Note: The photo for this blog was taken before the COVID-19 pandemic.