At this mid-point in the summer break from school, let me make it crystal clear that I will never tire or retreat from making the case for summer learning opportunities for our young people, especially our low income children and youth in Sampson County. I believe every child deserves to thrive during the summer “vacation,” not just the children and youth of the privileged.
As I have said for the past several years, no matter the cost, we have a moral obligation to help all our children and youth remain engaged in summer learning activities that will sustain, expand and grow their hope, keeping their dreams alive. To me, anything less is a violation of equal justice under the law, for every child should be entitled to summer learning opportunities. There is, indeed, much value in summer learning.
Speaking of the value in summer learning, former First Lady Michelle Obama knew the importance of summer learning and shared her philosophy with young people every chance she got. She once told an audience of young people, “If you’ve got big dreams and I know you all do, if you want to go to college, want to get a good job, want to make the most of your potential—then summer can’t just be a vacation. This is really a time to try and get ahead.” Or, maybe, in some cases, summer is a time to catch up, working to help narrow the achievement gap.
At this mid-point in the summer break, would anyone like to venture a guess as to what percent of our county youth has had access to quality summer learning experience? Well, the percent is dismal, and right now, at this very moment, we are allowing our children, particularly our low income youth to fall farther behind their higher income peers. For far too long, too many of our county children and youth have lacked adequate options for a safe, positive and enjoyable experience, with summer opportunities simply out of reach or non-existing.
The truth is, many children and youth are losing ground in math and reading at this very moment. Just imagine, with another summer of learning loss, added to the ones from years ago, the achievement gap will continue to widen, making it very difficult to rescue the American Dream for our children and youth. And the sad thing is, this is all preventable!
People, we are in the midst of a quiet storm that begins annually in early June, lasting through late August. To be sure, there is an urgent need for more of you to make some noise and help sound the alarm that “summer vacation is a disaster for poor children and their parents.”
Considering the many benefits that accrue from summer learning, let me respectfully remind all of you, that it is time we put a community vision for summer learning in place in Sampson County. The learning opportunity gap must end!
Larry Sutton is a retired teacher from Clinton High School.