If you’ve had children in school during the 2020-2021 academic year, you may be relieved that this year’s summer break has finally come. Even as we look forward to a summer without as many restrictions, it’s important for us to remember the challenges of this past school year and that our children, our neighbors’ children and others in our communities may have some catching up to do this fall.
According to Oxford Learning, there are significant losses in students’ math and reading skills during summer break. Two and a half months’ worth of math skills that students spend learning during the school year are lost over the summer. In reading, students lose two months of learning by the end of the summer. To make up for these losses, schools usually spend six weeks re-learning these skills in the fall.
“Summer brain drain” is real. And preventing it starts with us volunteering to stop it in its tracks.
Be a volunteer
With many restrictions lifting, students are starting to gather for camps and learning programs, and most organizations need volunteers to help run these programs. This summer, students will be able to do in-person projects and hands-on activities they might have missed during the school year. These activities are fun and engaging for students, and from my experience, fun for adult volunteers, too. Seeing students’ faces light up after they’ve learned HTML, built a robot or saw a cool chemical reaction makes the time you give to them invaluable.
Being able to gather in person is also giving students access to resources they might not have had last summer. For example, Boys & Girls Clubhouses here in Arizona and around the nation are welcoming students back to their Centers of Innovation, where they will be able to use computers, 3D printers, coding software and much more to engage in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) projects. They need professionals like us to show them what they can achieve with the right resources. Even if it’s not equipment we use every day, think of what we can achieve when we’re willing to learn alongside them.
Share your skills
I’ve volunteered for Tucson youth programs for several years, and one thing I’ve learned is that diverse skills are useful in benefitting our youth. We can work directly with students. We can clean or organize classrooms. We can help with administrative tasks. We can help them develop curriculum. I’ve done many of these different tasks and each time, it’s been a fulfilling experience.
Right now, I’m putting my STEM knowledge and management skills to use by serving on the Tucson Boys & Girls Club board of directors. In this role, I can help shape the organization’s initiatives and summer programming. Summer interns from my employer, Raytheon Missiles & Defense, recently volunteered at the Boys & Girls Club to help students launch rockets they had built, which gave the students and our interns great opportunities to lead, connect and grow their engineering skills.
If you’re wondering where to get started, I recommend checking out the pages of local nonprofits to see what they’re up to and how you can reach them. At work, connect with the corporate social responsibility team or your company leaders to see what they’re doing in the community. If your employer is like mine, you can find some ideas on their website. Remember your resources, and use them to do good for our youth this summer, who need to keep learning and keep being reminded of their potential.
Sam Deneke is vice president of business execution for Land Warfare & Air Defense at Raytheon Missiles & Defense.