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The Importance of Summer Learning and Activities for Foster Youth

Published on: August 05, 2013

ParentMap and Carter Subaru have partnered with Treehouse to bring readers information about and perspectives of those impacted by foster care. This month: Making the Most of Summer Break.

The importance of summer learning opportunitiesFor most kids, opportunities for learning are a natural part of the summer break experience.  You might remember trips to the library for summer adventure stories, exploring tidal pools at the beach, and picking up valuable skills at your very first job or internship.  For kids in foster care, these kinds of summer activities are rare.  

Research shows that kids who aren’t academically engaged during the summer start the school year behind where they ended the previous year.  Summer learning is particularly critical for youth in foster care to succeed in education.  Too often, youth who are already behind their peers, fall even further behind during the summer.  High school students in foster care are often behind on credits, and catching up on needed academic skills and coursework over the summer is essential for them to get back on track.

Treehouse Education Specialists work with each foster youth to help create a summer plan that will fulfill two needs that all kids equally deserve: fun and engaging opportunities for learning, and access to academic support to start the school year on pace and ready to learn.  Education Specialists help connect foster youth with activities and educational support that best fit their needs and interests, including credit retrieval programs, jobs, internships, leadership opportunities and camp experiences.  The Treehouse Little Wishes program then helps families pay for these activities, ensuring that foster youth have the opportunity to enjoy these essential childhood experiences.

Summer learning gets Ben on track to graduation success

Ben started coming to Treehouse to receive education support services because he had begun to disengage at school, especially during math class.  When anyone asked him what he wanted to do with his life, he had developed a standard reply, “I’m going to drop out, get my GED, and work at a game store.”  Ben is bright, articulate and capable — but after life in foster care, he had lost all belief in his future.

Although Ben had poor grades at school — particularly in math and science — his Treehouse Education Specialist discovered he was interested in business, spoke like a college philosophy major, and had a knack for languages. They started talking about his ideas, and slowly positioning those ideas as future goals. His grades started improving, and slowly, they started to talk about possibilities besides working at the game store.

Ben began to display increased confidence and belief in his abilities, and, with his Treehouse Education Specialist by his side, found the courage to apply for two internships over the summer — one with Microsoft and one with a local bank.  When his Treehouse Education Specialist ran into him later that summer, Ben was a different teen — he was wearing professional clothes provided free of charge from the Treehouse Wearhouse, had completed his initial training to be a high school intern bank teller, had his own business cards, and had just completed driver’s education, which was covered by the Treehouse Little Wishes program.

Throughout his internship at the bank, Ben continued to work with Treehouse staff several days a week to stay on track.  Over the next two years, his grades continued to improve, and he reengaged at school. By the time he was a high school senior, Ben was ready to graduate, and had developed transformative “real world” skills in the process.  With the help of Treehouse, Ben applied to South Seattle Community College, where he spent two years before transferring to Seattle University on a full-ride scholarship through its Fostering Scholars program.  He recently graduated with a political science degree and a 3.3 GPA!

Making the Most of Summer

Summer leadership, job and internship opportunities for teens

Is your teen interested in a job, internship, leadership development or college and career exploration opportunity?  Here are a few programs available in the Seattle area:

Washington Business Week — Grades 9–12

Deadline:  Rolling
Combine summer fun with real-world business experience. Plus, try out college life, meet new friends, enhance leadership skills, earn college credit, and get the chance to win a scholarship. Camps take place at: Western Washington University, Gonzaga University, Central Washington University, and Pacific Lutheran, July– August.  

Seattle Youth Employment Program (SYEP) — Ages 14–21

Deadline:  Ongoing
SYEP is a year-round academic support and work-readiness program for youth. The program places youth in seven-week-long paid summer internships in a variety of sectors to develop work-readiness skills and provide exposure to the world of work.  Applications are available at SYEP offices in downtown Seattle at 810 Third Avenue, Suite 420, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

YMCA Boys Outdoor Leadership Development (BOLD) &
Girls Outdoor Leadership Development (GOLD) Camps — Ages 12–18

Deadline:  March–May
YMCA Outdoor Leadership Development programs help young people make bold strides toward competent selfhood. Through extraordinary wilderness experiences, the YMCA Outdoor Leadership Camps  nurture multi-cultural leadership skills.

Seattle Parks Teen Jobs — Grades 7–12

Deadline:  April
Check out the paid summer job and internship opportunities provided through several different programs at Seattle Parks.  

Teens in Public Service (TIPS) — Ages 15–19

Deadline:  March
The TIPS Summer Internship Program connects high school students with meaningful paid summer work at local nonprofit organizations. Internships are either full time (30 hours/week) or part time (20 hours/week) for eight weeks over the summer.

Powerful Voices’ Develop Your Voice and Speak (DYVAS) — Girls Ages 14–18

Deadline: Must be referred by Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative
DYVAS is a youth employment program for girls ages 14–18 that emphasizes building a trusting and supportive team with other girls and women. These job readiness programs develop employable skills such as public speaking, project management, organization, teamwork, facilitation, and resume and cover letter writing.  Youth must be part of the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative to apply.


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About Treehouse

Treehouse makes a difference in the lives of thousands of Washington foster kids by helping with school, fulfilling key material needs. Learn more about Treehouse and the essential services and programs the organization provides for kids in foster care and how you can help give foster kids a childhood and a future.

Treehouse and other local nonprofit organizations supporting youth in foster care rely on the generous contributions of the community to make their programs possible. Treehouse is 90% privately funded and relies on the support of more than 7,000 donors every year.

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