By Malyk Johnson – 12th Grade, Allderdice High School
On March 21st, Mayor William Peduto and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced the Summer ‘16 “Dream! Explore! Do!” initiative. The initiative will provide thousands of local children with fun and educational activities throughout the city of Pittsburgh during the summer time. Talking to County Executive Rich Fitzgerald about the new initiative he described the program by saying,
“We just don’t want kids sitting around, as most parents know the development of children doesn’t stop at 3 o’clock when the school bell rings and they leave. There are a lot of activities we want kids to be involved with, some involve physical activities or learning how to play an instrument; it’s about learning what’s out there. Most kids don’t know what’s beyond their schools and their neighborhoods.”
When asked about expanding the program beyond Pittsburgh city lines Rich Fitzgerald replied,
“A lot of people don’t know about all the things that happened right here. Fort Pitt and the First World War, the things that we have, and how our river fronts and trails are important; that doesn’t just end at the city line. Our county parks and the things that reside outside the city limits are important too. Between the city and the suburban areas there are a lot of things to do to fill up your days during those June, July, and August months.”
One of the focuses during the announcement was filling the gap between high income and low-income students. During the summer, low-income students retain less information from the school year. This contributes to the gap during the school year between the achievements of high-income and low-income students.
During the announcement, there was a demonstration that showed low income students consistently behind high income students and that gap was only furthered due to all of the extra activities available to those with the income to pay for them. Talking with one of the demonstrators, Kristen Craiy, she stated that,
“The information we acted out was based on national data, In Pittsburgh we have been running Summer Dreamers for the last six years and we are seeing a lot of exciting results in terms of oral reading, fluency, grade point average, and attendance of the kids who attend Summer Dreamers compared to those who don’t.”
Summer Dreamers was one of many organizations partnering with the city of Pittsburgh to aid in the initiative. Rich Fitzgerald added that,
“The high income students probably already have things that their parents are able to provide for them. For the children who aren’t able to afford it, that’s what these programs are for. Anyone can participate; it’s not about income, gender, race, or where you live. When you hear the mayor and I talking about bridging the gap in western Pennsylvania where some people have a lot of those opportunities and those that don’t, we want to provide a summer of fun for them. Not a summer where they’re sitting around with nothing to do, or a summer of fear where they are sitting indoors because things might be happening that may not be very safe, or things they may get into because boredom sets in. A lot of times kids do bad things because they don’t have structure or the opportunities to do something fun. We want to provide those opportunities so that when they reach adulthood they can see the opportunities they can avail themselves too.”
Malyk Johnson will be a senior at Allderdice High School this coming year where he writes for the school newspaper. He enjoys playing video games and listening to podcasts.