As many of you know, the Weinberg Foundation has been funding summer programs since 2014 with the goal of supporting high-quality organizations that serve low-income and vulnerable Baltimore City youth. What you may not know is how it all began.
It starts with why summer programming is important.
- Summer learning loss is a very real problem. According to the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA), time spent away from school during the summer months amplifies the achievement gap between low-income children and their higher-income peers. Most low-income children lose between two to three months of reading skills and two months of math skills each summer. These summers then compound, leaving lower-income students even farther behind when they return to school in the fall each year. However, research also shows that elementary school students who attend voluntary (i.e. not summer school) summer learning programs for at least five weeks experience fewer summer learning losses and, in some cases, can even make gains.
- The health and wellbeing of students is at stake. Many students in Baltimore who are eligible for free and reduced meals, rely solely on school-provided breakfast and lunch to sustain them throughout the academic year. These meals are also available to them over the summer at summer learning programs—part of an initiative run by the US Department of Agriculture. In addition, many students lack access to safe play spaces during the summer. As a result, research shows that minority children gain up to twice as much weight over the summer compared to the school year. By comparison, summer programming provides a source of healthy food and activity.
- College and career opportunities feel out of reach. NSLA reports that one-third of first-generation college-bound high school graduates fail to enroll in college the summer after their senior year. This phenomenon, coined “summer melt,” is true even if students have already been accepted into a college or university. However, when youth have summer programs to keep them engaged during that critical time, outcomes improve dramatically. Also, many summer programs provide jobs for older youth, which not only provide income now but also help to nurture employment skills for the future. Most importantly, research shows that crime and mortality rates are lower for youth who are employed over the summer.
In 2014, the Weinberg Foundation committed $1 million in funding to support summer programs that address the above issues. That first summer, the Foundation funded 29 programs that not only addressed summer learning loss, but also provided healthy meals, created job opportunities for older youth, and helped our youngest Baltimoreans prepare for kindergarten.
Overall, it was a success. The average daily attendance across all programs was more than 80 percent and there were some promising pre- and post-test results from students. But we knew that more had to be done–the Foundation’s initial grant supported programming for approximately 4,000 students out of the more than 80,000 school-aged youth in Baltimore City. How could we increase our impact and leverage our dollars?
The answer? Excellent partners.
Later in 2014, the Weinberg Foundation joined the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Family League of Baltimore to create a shared application and review process for summer programming grants. We were stronger as a team, better able to leverage our dollars. And, perhaps more importantly, we were able to reduce the application burden on the program providers. Instead of three applications for three funders, there was now only one. Thus, the Baltimore Summer Funding Collaborative was born.
Over the past four summers, the Collaborative has grown from three funders to more than 10, spanning the private, public, and corporate sectors. Through that growth, there is still only one application and scoring process. The Collaborative is continuously working to streamline data collection and lighten the burdens on summer programming providers. Earlier this month, the Collaborative launched its fifth application, this time with its very own website and with the help of Baltimore’s Promise—the administrative backbone of the Collaborative for the past two years.
Many thanks to all the funders and partners who have participated in or aided the Collaborative over the past five years. Without this group of dedicated organizations, the Collaborative would not be what it is today.
- The Abell Foundation
- The Annie E. Casey Foundation
- Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers
- Baltimore’s Promise
- Bloomberg Philanthropies
- CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield
- Clayton Baker Trust
- Family League of Baltimore
- Fund for Educational Excellence
- France-Merrick Foundation
- The Hinkey-Benson Family Charitable Funds
- Lockhart Vaughan Foundation
- Maryland Out of School Time Network
- Mayor’s Office of Human Services
- United Way of Central Maryland
If you are a provider, a funder, or simply interested in what happens over the summer in our City, I encourage you to visit the links below to learn more, or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bring some summer warmth to your winter!