Baltimore Summer Funding Collaborative continues to increase learning opportunities for city children and youth

This summer, the Weinberg Foundation and 11 other organizations supported 90 programs that provide enriching learning opportunities for about 5,800 Baltimore City youths as part of the Baltimore Summer Funding Collaborative.

Now in its ninth year, this joint effort involving public, private, corporate, and nonprofit institutions aims to create these opportunities for the city’s children and youth in low-income families, who often lack access to them. These summer programs serve as more than just a fun experience: They offer academic support to reduce the significant learning loss that can occur while kids are out of school; connect youth with valuable work experiences; and engage them in activities that allow them to pursue interests, discover talents, and develop their skills.

While such enrichment programs for youth have always been important, they have become critical since the pandemic, as months out of the classroom resulted in even more disconnect from school and learning opportunities, particularly for students in low-income families.

“Our goal is to close the opportunity gap that exists between students in low-income families and those from more affluent families who can provide access to camps, sports enrichment, academic support, and field trips, as well as exposure to careers, throughout the summer months,” said Sarah Manekin, the program director who leads the Foundation’s grantmaking in education.

For this summer, the Baltimore Summer Funding Collaborative received 178 applications and over $12 million in funding requests from local nonprofits. The Weinberg Foundation, specifically, gave grants to 39 of the 90 organizations whose programs were ultimately selected. Over 75% of those nonprofits are led by people of color, reflecting the cultural identities and experiences of the children and youth they serve.

As part of the selection process, a community panel of more than 150 Baltimore residents (adults and youth) assessed all grant applications and gave valuable feedback to help guide final decisions. Programs funded by the Weinberg Foundation aim to help stem summer learning loss for younger students; offer meaningful employment for older youth; ensure students stay active, fed, and healthy over the summer; and encourage older youth to explore future college and career possibilities.

A few examples of programs the Weinberg Foundation supported this year:

Play on Purpose: This organization’s Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools program melds academics and athletics to enable K–8 students to be leaders in their schools and within their communities. Each morning begins with a gathering called Harambee that uses cheers and chants to inspire connection. Participants spend mornings in small groups taught by trained college students using CDF’s reading curriculum, which focuses on themes of identity and social justice. In the afternoon, they participate in sports including football, basketball, and volleyball, as well as dance. All teachers and coaches are current or former college athletes, many of whom grew up through the Freedom Schools program. This summer, Play on Purpose served 125 kids at Baltimore’s Leithwalk Elementary School; 75% of them also participated in the program last year.

CHARM: Voices of Baltimore Youth: Founded on the belief that kids’ voices matter, CHARM’s mission is to help young people develop as writers to amplify their voices. The literary arts organization’s summer publishing internship program supports 20 middle and high school students. Each week, they spend two days learning together as a team and the remaining three days at internship locations at various local publishing, media, and bookstore sites across Baltimore, including The Baltimore Banner, AFRO News, and The Ivy Bookshop. The program culminates in an end-of-summer project that deepens students’ understanding of the publishing and media landscape, while amplifying their voices on issues most concerning to them.

Dent Education: Grounded in the belief that everyone has the capacity to make a dent in the universe, Dent Education programs train and connect Baltimore City youth with professional opportunities to help them develop and leverage their skills. Dent’s summer program supports about 100 students through options ranging from an introductory track on design and 3-D printing to more advanced entrepreneurship experiences in which students work together with coaches to grow and scale social venture proposals. Dent works in partnership with other organizations in the city’s Station North neighborhood that focus on supporting youth as innovators and entrepreneurs in the areas of design, production, and social innovation.

Dance & Bmore: Boosting confidence, creativity, and collaboration among its students, Dance & Bmore’s summer program engages 35 high school and older youth across Baltimore in creating a modern adaptation of the opera Carmen. Participants learn every aspect of musical production, including acting, choreography, costume design, and photography. The Tony Awards has recognized CJay Philip, the organization’s artistic director, for excellence in theater education for two consecutive years.

Photo credit: CHARM: Voices of Baltimore Youth

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