Authored by Ricky Vigil, Youth Services Afterschool Coordinator
You can feel it in the air: temperatures are dropping, days are getting longer and the call of the great outdoors can no longer be ignored–the school year is mere weeks from ending. For most teenagers, that means two and a half blissful months of sleeping late, watching endless hours of YouTube videos, and promptly forgetting months of their teachers’ hard work over the previous school year. It’s easy to fall into a summer slump–studies on Summer Learning Loss have proven that many students lose up to two months of math skills, and low-income students lose two months of reading comprehension skills as well. Teens definitely deserve a break from the intense day-to-day life of junior high and high school, but it is also important to keep them engaged both academically and socially. In Magna and Kearns, the Youth Services Afterschool programs have implemented a Summer Blast program to do just that.
I worked as a Youth Leader (basically, a camp counselor) at the Kearns Summer Blast last year, and it was seriously one of the most fun summers I’ve ever had. Every day nearly 100 kids reported to the program, ready to engage in fun classes such as Lego Robotics, Yoga and cooking, as well as academic and career-focused activities like Math Playground and Sparking the Future. However, the part we all looked forward to the most was our three field trips per week. We attended nearly every museum and educational destination across the Wasatch Front, including the incredible Natural History Museum, Living Planet Aquarium and Museum of Curiosity in American Fork. The teens also got a chance to check out college life, as we toured the University of Utah, Weber State and Salt Lake Community College. We also knew it was important to let loose, as we visited the Utah Olympic Oval, Classic Skating, went swimming every Friday, and capped off the summer with a trip to Lagoon.
Just as important as the academic aspects of the summer program are the social aspects. We service kids whose parents might be working all day, leaving their children unsupervised. The summer program offer these teens a safe place, but also a place where they can interact with their peers, strengthening their relationships while building new ones with new friends as well as the program staff. It was really a treat to see these kids bond with each other throughout the summer, especially when you consider that if they didn’t have this problem, they might not interact with any other kids throughout the summer. During the early teenage years, it is important to provide pro-social environments for kids to interact with each other–it’s so easy to slip up, but the relationships forged not only with program staff, but also with their peers, will prove invaluable in the coming years.
This year, our summer programs begin May 31 and will be available in Kearns for 8 weeks and in Magna for 6 weeks. Each program is available to incoming 7th graders-10th graders. For more information and for registration links, click on the “Summer Program” tab at www.youth.slco.org. Or call 385-468-4500.