Check & Connect was designed as an 11-month intervention with mentors maintaining formal contact with students for 2 of the 3 summer months. This may not be feasible for all schools, so some schools implement Check & Connect as a 9-month intervention. But how do you make the most of summer, whether you’re implementing Check & Connect for 9 months or 11?
In part one of this two-part blog, we’ll share ideas for preparing your Check & Connect mentees for summer, whether mentors will be connecting with students over all or part of the summer or not. In part two, we’ll share some ways that different schools and organizations across the country stay connected with Check & Connect participants over the summer.
We know from research that when it comes to students’ success in school, summer matters. Students who have access to summer learning opportunities such as sports, enrichment activities, lessons, camps, museums, trips, libraries, and parks tend to have better academic outcomes. They have better academic achievement and higher graduation rates and are more likely to go to college.
Unfortunately, students do not have equal access to summer learning opportunities, and these differences in access contribute to the academic achievement gap between low- and higher-income students (Alexander, Entwisle, & Olson, 2007). For more information on the summer learning gap, visit http://www.summerlearning.org/
An important role of the Check & Connect mentor is to enhance student engagement through connecting students to enrichment opportunities in their schools and communities. This role need not—and indeed, should not—be limited to the school year. Below, we share some potential sources of summer learning opportunities that Check & Connect mentors can connect students with, as well as ways to help students plan for summer in general.
Connecting Students to Summer Learning Opportunities in the Community
All students benefit from participation in summer learning experiences, and that’s especially true for students who don’t traditionally have access to such experiences (which are often the students on Check & Connect mentors’ caseloads). Mentors can work to identify students’ interests and strengths and connect them to meaningful summer school and community activities.
Here are some places to look for such opportunities:
- Schools. Check with your school for information about summer school, extended school year, enrichment activities, field trips, sports, etc.
- Community education. Many school districts offer community education courses and activities throughout the summer. Associated fees may be reduced or waived for students who qualify for financial support.
- Community organizations targeting youth such as YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs, and community centers. These organizations may organize field trips and other enrichment activities, offer summer drop-in hours, offer classes, and run summer camps.
- Libraries. Most libraries offer summer reading programs as well as other youth learning activities.
- Parks and Recreation. Local parks and recreation boards typically offer youth sports programs as well as a variety of other park-based programming such as arts programs, structured playground programs, camps, and volunteer opportunities.
- Local colleges and universities. Local postsecondary institutions may offer summer programming for youth such as sports camps, STEM camps, leadership development workshops, etc.
- Local theaters and museums. Check with local theaters and museums for reduced-price passes for youth and for other summer programming they may be offering.
- Summer youth employment opportunities. Identify local businesses and organizations that offer summer employment or internship opportunities. Also, look for youth employment programs in your region that may connect students to summer employment opportunities.
- Religious organizations. Local religious organizations may offer summer field trips, camps, and other programming to youth members and/or all youth in the community.
- Nonprofit organizations. Seek out volunteer opportunities for students where they can engage in meaningful work, connect with positive peers and adults, and learn new skills.
Talking with Students About Their Summer Plans
See the Check & Connect Summer Planning Guide (editable version in MS Word or print-friendly version in PDF) to start the conversation about summer with your students. Even if they aren’t taking summer school or participating in formal summer learning opportunities, just helping them be proactive in planning their summer will make it a more positive experience for them. To help students to have a more meaningful, less stressful break with less conflict and less likelihood of engaging in unhealthy behaviors, help students to think about their goals for the summer – what they want to learn and accomplish, how they’ll structure their time, the routine that they’ll keep, and the activities that they’ll participate in.
How Do You Help Students Plan for Summer? How Do You Connect with Them During the Summer Months?
We would love your input on other ways that mentors can help students to prepare for summer. Please share your ideas below.
Also, part two of this blog features ways that Check & Connect mentors maintain contact with students during the summer. Please share strategies that you use to continue to “check and connect” with your mentees even when school is out.
Alexander, K. L., Entwisle, D. R., & Olson L. S. (2007). Lasting consequences of the summer learning gap. American Sociological Review, 72, 167-180. Retrieved from http://www.bsos.umd.edu/socy/vanneman/socy789b/AlexanderEO07.pdf
Christenson, S. L., Stout, K., & Pohl, A. (2012). Check & Connect: Implementing with fidelity. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration.
About the Author: Angie Pohl, Ph.D. provides training nationally and internationally on Check & Connect, serves as an investigator on several Check & Connect research projects currently underway, and is one of the authors of the 2012 Check & Connect manual, “Implementing with Fidelity”.
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