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Commentary By Ellen London: Saving Children’s Summer Programs

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Walk into Hung Tao Choy Mei Leadership Institute on any given afternoon and you will find a little army of Kung Fu fighters practicing kicks, blocks, squats and some pretty impressive precise moves. Wearing black pants and shirts with golden sashes, these young people are taking part in a free program offered to DC youth after school and in the summer. Over six weeks in the summer, the Kung Fu camp offers meditation, warm-up drills and stretching, lion and dragon dance, synchronized drumming, Chinese language lessons twice a week and fun Friday field trips and in the process, the students learn about focus, concentration and sound decision-making.

Over the past 10 years, the nonprofit DC Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation has provided more than $30 million in funding, much of it from city dollars, for programs like Hung Tao Choy Mei serving as many as 10,000 low-income children a year. But this summer, with budgets tight, many programs, including the Hung Tao Choy Mei Leadership Institute, did not receive funding they need.

Without summer programs many children in neighborhoods of high poverty will face risks and setbacks. For some of our kids summer vacation rarely brings exciting, fun-filled days or memorable experiences. Too often, it’s a precarious time with few opportunities for physical activity, academic and cultural enrichment, creative exploration, or even proper nutrition.

The benefits of summer programs have been well-documented. Summer programs are proven to help fight summer learning loss by engaging youth and keeping their minds active. For older kids, many summer programs provide volunteer opportunities and teach valuable job skills, laying the ground work for future success. These youth development programs also provide basic needs such as healthy meals and quality adult supervision during a time of year when parents find it difficult to do so.

I’d like to challenge local, regional or national businesses to help make summer the memorable, fun season it should be for D.C. kids. This is going to be a challenging summer for many young people who need our assistance.

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