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Mayor Bowser Celebrates Start of #BacktoSummer Programming to Keep DC Youth Engaged

Monday, June 28, 2021
District Announces Partnership with Amira Learning and DC Sports Teams to Encourage Summer Reading and Reduce Summer Slide

(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser joined DC kids and community members at Edgewood Recreation Center to kick off several annual summer programming initiatives, as well as announce a partnership with Amira Learning, DC United, the Washington Nationals, and the Washington Football Team to offer elementary DC students a new platform to sharpen their reading skills over the summer and the opportunity to win exciting prizes as part of the DC Public Library’s Read 20/Summer Reading Challenge. Today also marked the launch of the 2021 Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program and the first day of Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) summer camps.

“After a tough year, our students and families deserve a fun summer and the chance to be back together with their friends, coaches, camp counselors, teachers, and mentors,” said Mayor Bowser. “With the Summer Reading Challenge, the return of camps, and the Mayor Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program, we’re offering a summer filled with opportunity for our young people. Our other focus remains getting all young people 12 and older vaccinated against COVID-19.”

This summer, thanks to generous philanthropic donations, the District is partnering with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) and Amira Learning to offer its first-of-its-kind personalized AI reading tutor software to rising 2nd through 5th grade students in DC Public Schools (DCPS) and in seven DC Public Charter LEAs. Amira’s technology uses AI to listen to a child as they read and respond along the way. When Amira identifies an opportunity to help build or reinforce a child’s foundational reading skills, Amira delivers personalized “micro-interventions” that were developed in partnership with many of the country’s top reading experts. Students who sign up for DCPL’s Summer Challenge can also log their time in Amira to earn a special Amira badge, and it will also count toward their Read20 goal.

“Reading is life’s most important skill. With the significant decline in reading and learning over the pandemic we’ve taken action with DC, the leader of high dosage tutoring, to provide the tools and practice for students to become great readers,” said Mark Angel, CEO and Co-Founder of Amira Learning. “Amira uses AI to make practice fun and productive. Amira listens as a child reads aloud, then provides personalized tutoring and encouragement to build reading skills.”

“As the largest K-12 learning technology company, HMH works with school districts nationwide and we are seeing firsthand the impact that our partnership with Amira is making each day—fueling literacy growth for students and supporting educators with meaningful insights and tools for differentiation, even amidst the challenges of the past year,” said Matthew Mugo Fields, General Manager and EVP, Supplemental and Intervention Solutions, HMH. “We’re excited to see our D.C. students dive into reading with Amira this summer and beyond.”

Running from June 1 to August 31, the city’s Summer Challenge/Read20 aims to reduce “summer slide” by gamifying summer learning. Children and teens who read and participate in learning activities for at least 20 minutes a day will be eligible to receive recognition and prizes, including special opportunities from the Washington National Football Team, Washington Nationals, and D.C. United. Additional details on prizes will be announced in the coming weeks. Students can sign up online or visit a neighborhood library to participate. For more information, please visit dclibrary.org/summerchallenge.

“Reading at any age is an incredibly joyful experience, and that joy only increases as our reading skills develop, ” said Richard Reyes-Gavilan, Executive Director of the DC Public Library. “The District’s partnership with Amira Learning helps ensure that our young people are supported as they become stronger readers, helping to create a love of reading that they will have all their lives.”

In 2020, the Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program (MBSYEP) became completely virtual due to the pandemic, but was still able to serve over 9,000 young Washingtonians. Innovative partnerships with organizations like On-Ramps to Careers allowed youth to gain on-the-job experience while others served as tutors, helping younger students prepare for the upcoming school year. This year, the program enters its 42nd year and will run from June 28 - August 6. It will serve over 13,000 youths from all 8 wards. 3,000 of these will be students at 54 school sites across the District. Over 500 employers have signed up as host sites for the 2021 program. This includes continued partnership with the federal Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act (FIRREA) agencies - the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and a new partnership with the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC).

“For 42 years, the Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program has served as a national model for giving young people the opportunity to earn an income over the summer while equipping them with the leadership and job skills that will help them be successful,” said Department of Employment Services Director Unique Morris-Hughes. “Hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians have benefitted from this program, and the Mayor’s bold budget proposal to expand the program further will support more young District residents working toward their goals. This expansion is a huge step toward equity and giving more youth a fair shot.”

DPR is providing 6,612 camp slots to DC residents with in-person traditional summer camps, including swimming camps, specialty sports camps, and therapeutic recreation camps. This includes the new and free Boost Camps, which will provide 700 students in Wards 5, 7, and 8 an experience that combines recreation and academics to accelerate learning.

Each year, DPR provides meals for DC children with support from the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This summer, DPR will be providing meals at 33 recreation centers and 25 other partner sites under DPR's sponsorship. Additionally, DC Central Kitchen will be providing mobile meals at eight DPR Outdoor Pools. Meals are available from June 28 – August 28. For more information on available meal sites and times, visit dpr.dc.gov/service/dc-youth-meals-program.

Starting today, DPR’s outdoor pools are open six days a week. For the operating hours of each pool, visit dpr.dc.gov/page/outdoor-pools.

Investments to support youth programming and learning in the Mayor’s #FairShot FY22 budget proposal include:

  • $4.2M to add 4,200 seats to the Summer Youth Employment Program for an Earn and Learn model for high school students who need credit recovery or summer learning
  • $5.6 million to increase access to summer programming with academic enrichment
  • $420M over the next six years to improve parks, recreation facilities, and libraries, including:
    • Libraries: Fully fund all remaining library modernizations with new funding to replace Shepherd Park, Deanwood, Rosedale, and a new library in the Northwest One area
    • Recreation Facilities: Duke Ellington Field, Jelleff Recreation Center, Emery Heights Community Center, William H. Rumsey Aquatic Center, Randall Recreation Center, Harry Thomas Recreation Center, and a brand-new community center at the former Crummell School site
    • Additional renovations: Upshur Recreation Center pool renovation, addressing site issues at Douglass Recreation Center, and bringing all DPR facilities into ADA compliance by the end of FY 2023.