Elementary school students are polishing reading and math skills, studying the solar system, exploring STEM programs, and learning the fundamentals of a new sport each week during the Urban Initiatives (UI) Community Schools Initiative (CSI) summer program.
The federally funded, out-of-school time CSI program supports the academic, health, and social service needs of students and their families year-round. This year’s summer program is serving about 350 students from nine schools across the city.
Each summer, UI offers a variety of programs that students and families may not be able to participate in without the CSI grant funding, said Director 21st Century Learning Tiffany Wilson-Washington.
Those programs include targeted reading and math tutoring to help limit summer learning loss; enrichment activities like STEM programs, mentoring, and gardening; sports; and field trips.
“No summer program is complete without the experience of taking a field trip,” Tiffany said. “This summer students have gone on field trips to a lot of fun places including the Garfield Park Conservatory, Wrigley Field, Lincoln Park Zoo, Martin Luther King Skate Center, and LEGOLAND.”
“Also, as a sport and play-based organization, play equity is very important to us so we are sure to include sports in our summer programming,” she said. “Our Summer of Sports Camp focuses on team sports and activities and the importance of using play to build social-emotional skills. Each week we rotate to a new sport — baseball, soccer, football, dodgeball, etc. — teaching kids the fundamentals of the game.”
The CSI initiative is centered on underserved communities, particularly on the West and South sides of the city. During the school year, programs take place before and after school and on weekends and evenings.
“For the families we serve, the CSI program is more than just an after-school or summer program,” Tiffany said. “It’s a safe place for kids to learn and grow, it’s a place where students don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, and it’s a place that provides resources and support for the whole family.”