HEAD START: From left: Jarilyn Lizana, Taina Polanco and Anthony Maione, president and CEO of United Way of Rhode Island. The students are participating in the Hasbro Summer Learning Initiative at the Sophia Academy in Providence.
When evaluated by metrics and by standing in a national competition, students who’ve been participating in the Hasbro Summer Learning Initiative have been found to be making critical gains in literacy and math.
There’s another, more telling measure, however: the voices of the students involved.
Jaden Hernandez, 10, of Providence, who is entering fifth grade at Sophia Academy this fall, has been participating in YWCA Rosie’s Girls, a program that the YWCA of Rhode Island runs and that the initiative has helped fund. The program focuses on exposing girls in grades 5-8 to nontraditional technical careers and building confidence, said Meghan Grady, the YWCA’s chief operating officer.
“The most fun I have is construction, because I didn’t know how to use tools and I like using them,” Hernandez said. “We use measuring tapes to measure where screws go and build benches and stuff you can use. I think every kid should have a chance to come here. If I didn’t come here, I would have been home bored, watching TV.”
Added Grady: “Jaden had done a great job as a participant in the Rosie program. Since the first day, we’ve seen her confidence increase. We’ve seen her grow as a young woman, and we’re excited to see she can consider careers she might not have considered.”
In its third year and newly expanded to 17 sites in 12 communities, the Hasbro Summer Learning Initiative supports experiential learning with a wide variety of partners, including Rosie’s Girls, Save The Bay, Boys & Girls Clubs and participating school districts, to teach math and language skills so that learning isn’t lost during the summer months.
Summer-learning loss is a known phenomenon that organizers are seeking to counter, said Anthony Maione, president and CEO of United Way of Rhode Island, and Karen Davis, vice president of community relations for Hasbro Inc. in Pawtucket. Hasbro introduced a service-learning component as well, they said.
“Many summer-learning programs are for the kids who have failed,” said Maione. “This program is open to any child who wants to participate, and we think that is a plus. They are not being singled out; they are being invited in to participate in something engaging.”
The Family Foundation also provides some funding, said Joseph Morra, a project manager for quality initiatives at the Rhode Island Afterschool Plus Alliance.