Strategy 2.3: Provide and coordinate activities that reduce summer learning loss for elementary students

What We Do

This strategy is fairly new but the Education Cabinet felt that this was an area where United Way could show impact by investing in this work. This summer with partnership with Des Moines Public Schools and over 25 community based partners our community is launching "Summer in the City" where we are hoping to impact 3,000 students and 1,000 parents in the areas of education, income, and health. Our goals is to help students reduce or stop summer learning loss by offering intensive summer programming focuses on students who have been identified being at risk.

School’s out and summer is in full swing. But for some central Iowa kids, summer is anything but a carefree time of swimming and summer camp. For most of the year, school is the safe place with healthy meals. Summer can mean no supervision, no learning – and little to eat.

According to the National Summer Learning Association, youth backslide academically by 2 months during the summer. Summer learning loss is more severe among youth in lower-income neighborhoods. The lack of quality summer programs can eventually mean the difference between dropping out of school and graduation.

United Way and 25 partner schools and nonprofits have launched five new programs - Summer in the City- for children and their families. These are made possible due to the record-setting success of the 2012 United Way campaign. In each of the five programs, parents will have the opportunity for English language instruction, high school completion programs, job skill coaching and a financial literacy boot camp.

The five Summer in the City programs are:

Summer Learning for Elementary Students

This 6-week program is offered in high-need neighborhoods to children who have finished grades K-5 and are below proficiency in reading or math. The programs will take place at King Elementary in Des Moines Public Schools, Crestview Elementary in West Des Moines Schools and at Perry Elementary and Perry Middle School in Perry, Iowa. Academic programming will focus on:

    ·Reinforcement of literacy lessons introduced during regular school times.

    ·Enrichment activities which are designed to build vocabulary and general knowledge.

Breakfast, lunch, and snacks will be provided. Parents will drop off and pick up students at the same times as the regular school schedule or students will be bused to some locations.

To support health efforts, access to healthy food and physical activity will be explored. At King, YMCA will engage them in offering healthy snacks and physical activity “breaks” for the kids. In addition, we will partner to develop short physical “bursts” that students can engage in throughout the day to get them up and moving. United Way will also provide healthy snack backpacks to send home with the students for the weekend to share with the family.


Des Moines Public Schools 21st Century Grant, Prairie Meadows, Grubb Y, Y Reader’s Program, After School Arts program (ASAP), Community Youth Concepts, Evelyn K. Davis Center, DMACC, Financial Capability Network, Central Iowa Works, Project Iowa

Numbers Served: 200 children, 300 adults

MLK Park Youth

This program, held at Martin Luther King Park in Des Moines, helps younger children with academics, physical activity, crafts and other enrichment activities to keep youth engaged while building social and academic skills. Included in the programming will be lunch as a summer meal site sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. Several local churches in the area helped recruit families.


Child and Family Policy Center, United Way Literacy Coaches, Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families, DMACC, Financial Capability Network, Central Iowa Works, Project Iowa, HOME Inc., and Des Moines Area Religious Council.

Numbers Served: 30 children, 45 adults

Middle School Summer Program

For youth entering sixth through eighth grades, thissummer learning opportunity is offered for approximately 100 students at each of the 10 Des Moines middle schools. The program will run from 9-5 each day, five days per week for six weeks, focusing on academic enrichment as well as science, technology and math (STEM) and experiential learning.


Des Moines Public Schools 21st Century Learning Grant, Community Youth Concepts, Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families, DMACC, Financial Capability Network, Central Iowa Works, Project Iowa, HOME Inc., Des Moines Area Religious Council and the Greater Des Moines YMCA

Numbers Served: 1,000 youth, 500 adults

Refugee Summer Enrichment Program

The summer is great time to help refugee children and their parents improve their English language skills. During summer, focus can be on individual student needs: helping students catch up, and preparing them for the following school year. In addition to work with English language skills, cultural, academic and social skill needs can be addressed for children and parents. Connecting to prior learning and using real-life experiences are crucial for helping English language learners to progress, and the summer provides time for creative, innovative, and effective programming outside the confines of the school schedule and environment.

The program has designed activities involving children and their parents reading together, using technology, and experiencing American culture. In addition, food access, nutrition, and physical activity will be stressed.

The summer academy will serve families at Carver and Windsor elementary schools, and Meredith and Weeks middle schools. The students attend Tuesday through Saturday. United Way provides daily nutritious lunches and transportation.


Des Moines Public Schools, Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families, DMACC, Financial Capability Network, Central Iowa Works, Project Iowa, HOME Inc., Des Moines Area Religious Council, Greater Des Moines YMCA ,DART, Des Moines Police, Visiting Nurse Services, EMBARC, and Lutheran Services in Iowa.

Numbers Served: 600 children, 180 adults

Summer Youth Experience Program (SYEP)

The Summer Youth Experience Program (SYEP) is designed to prepare youth ages 14 – 21 from low-income households with the skill development needed for participants to experience long-term success as employees. It also provides an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the real world in order to build confidence, excel and add value to a company’s current operation.

85 youth will have the opportunity to become part of the workforce and earn a competitive wage. Following acceptance into the SYEP program, participants will complete a two week leadership orientation, with the opportunity to be placed in the work experience program at an average stipend of $8.00 per hour. Prior to being placed with an employer, all participants will complete 30 hours of pre-employment services and will take the National Career Readiness Test to earn a certificate.

All students will also be given the opportunity to complete an online job search and identify jobs in which they are interested. Participants will receive exposure to college campuses by visiting four different colleges: DMACC, ISU, Grand View University and Simpson College to learn the differences between two and four year schools. Additional character-building opportunities will include involvement in community service, role playing with real life scenarios on prioritizing, budgeting and managing their situation using the Life Store workshop from Iowa College Association Network, and participating in a graduation ceremony. Funding to support this program will include funds from the Principal Charity Golf Classic.


Principal Charity Classic, Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families, Oakridge Neighborhood, DMACC, Financial Capability Network, Central Iowa Works, Project Iowa, Iowa State University, Grand View University, Drake University and Simpson College.

Numbers Served: 85 youth and 100 adults

Des Moines Register article announcing the launch of Summer in the City:

Who We Serve

Students in Polk, Dallas, and Warren counties with specific focus on students who have been identified at-risk of summer learning loss by their respective school district.

How We Impact

We believe that offering this type of programming this summer that we can reduce the amount of summer learning and that when school starts in the fall that less time is spent on review of the previous year.

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