2012-06-29 / Columnists

New Kid On The Boardwalk

Y’s Stay – Active Summer
Commentary By Jack Lund, Arverne By The Sea Y

The new Rockaways YMCA at Arverne-by-the-Sea is rapidly taking shape. The contractors are now starting to erect steel for the pool, the community rooms and for the basement. Preparation work is being done for electrical and plumbing. Concrete is constantly flowing and the basement steel deck is being installed. The site will be full of activity throughout the summer – which brings me to the topic for this month’s column.

Youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility are not goals that the Y pursues just 9 months out of the year. At the Y we send NYC’s families and communities the strong message that summer should never be considered a “time out” from academic rigor, physical fitness, and professional advancement when it comes to our city’s youth. To succeed in school and in life, children and young adults need ongoing opportunities to learn and practice essential skills — never more so than during the dog days of summer.

The importance of our children staying both physically and mentally active during June, July, and August cannot be overstated. The phenomenon of “summer brain drain” is a very real problem for New York’s kids. In fact, according to the Center for Summer Learning, most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in math skills over the summer months, and low-income students fall behind more than two months in reading achievement during the same period.

Generations of research demonstrates that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer. Two-thirds of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college.

That’s why the Y incorporates learning activities into the schedules of each of our 44 summer camps. YMCA of Greater New York Day Camps provide high-quality summer learning initiatives that give children a variety of ways to improve reading and math skills and to explore music, drama, art, and sports. For example, when Y campers take ballet classes, they also learn about the history behind the dance. Through fun, themed curriculum that incorporates key academic components, children practice and further develop their skills, plan and create projects, learn teamwork and acquire new skills.

The memories created, friendships forged, and skills developed at summer camp are, indeed, priceless. Summertime is equally important for being a time when most young people enjoy their first job and internship opportunities. And, even during this time of economic and municipal budgeting uncertainty, the Y continues to be one of the City’s youth employment leaders.

The YMCA of Greater New York currently employs more than 1,800 youth staff between the ages of 14 and 24, working mostly in citywide camps and after school programs. But mo re than just offering jobs, the Y provides an entryway to youth worker training, putting our kids on the path to becoming tomorrow’s teachers and social workers, doctors and engineers. We all know the importance of early work experience. That first job — those first interactions with peers and colleagues in a professional environment — provides not only income, but also contributes to self-esteem, provides a structured learning experience, builds social skills, and helps young people make positive transitions into adulthood and become productive members of their communities.

Staying active during this summer means kids being as excited to dive into their favorite book as into our YMCA swimming pool. Whether your youngster is enrolled in camp or has landed his or her first job or internship, some summertime recommendations for our city’s kids include wearing sunscreen whenever they’re outside (even on overcast days!), trying to get at least one hour of outdoor activity every day, keeping a schedule to avoid idle time, and developing a realistic reading list with parents, teachers, and guardians in advance of summer recess. And, when the new Rockaways YMCA at Arverne by the Sea opens, Rockaway Wave readers will have more options for their children’s summer than ever before.

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