Vacation break for Pittsburgh kids means a fun, active schedule through APOST Summer17

Organizations across Allegheny County are making sure parents and caregivers have plenty of help keeping kids from experiencing the summer slide.

The “Summer17 Dream! Explore! Do!” initiative involves creating a one-stop shop for finding information about all the activities available for kids during the lazy, hazy days.

“It is critically important for every student to be thinking, learning, engaging, socializing—doing all those wonderful things that happen in a school environment—through the summer,” says Kathryn Vargas, director of United Way’s Allegheny Partners for Out of School Time (APOST). “They can then come back to school and be just as ready to learn as when they left.”

By visiting the website, parents can enter information about where they live and the kind of programming they are looking for to see all the available opportunities.

“It’s really our goal to put all of these resources together in one place, so they’re easy for a parent to find,” says Vargas. “We want to make sure families and those working with kids know what’s going on in Pittsburgh and what the resources are. We also want to keep a positive narrative around what’s happening in the summer (by showing) all these wonderful things our city is providing collectively for kids.”

According to the National Summer Learning Association, one-third of households nationwide have at least one child who participates in a summer program. Just over half of the families not participating in a summer program say they would if one was available to them.

Locally, 21,000 kids from kindergarten through 12th grade participated in the Summer16 initiative. This year’s goal is to draw 27,000 kids.

Connecting the dots between families and services is a common problem, says LaTrenda Leonard Sherrill, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s deputy chief education officer. Parents frequently contact the office seeking resources, while organizations often are looking for ways to reach more people, she says. Merging the efforts of many organizations helps spread the word about what’s available.

“Everyone does not always know about the unique opportunity available at the summer camp around the corner from their house, but they do know about the United Way,” Sherrill says. “This way, we can say to the community, ‘Here is a broad range of what’s available. You can choose what’s best for your kids.’ ”

The initiative includes a newsletter and regular blog posts highlighting certain events. There will be a Twitter chat about available opportunities from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on June 16. Those interested in following the conversations—or posting anything related to their experiences with summer programs—can use #PghSummer17.

Listings featured on the site include a mix of one-time and recurring events with a wide range of focuses. Examples include Carnegie Library’s annual summer reading extravaganza, set for June 11, which officially kicks off the system-wide summer reading program for patrons of all ages. Alcosan hosts several week-long camps with themes such as the environment, science, and biodiversity. Pittsburgh Public School’s Summer Dreamers Academy offers academic and enrichment experiences.

There are programs and opportunities dedicated to recreation, technology, music, mentoring and much more.

“Our goal is that there is something for everybody,” Vargas says.

The Summer17 initiative is a partnership between United Way’s APOST, The Office of Mayor William Peduto, the Allegheny County Executive’s Office, Allies for Children, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Sprout Fund, Pittsburgh Public Schools, Partner 4 Work, Kidsburgh, and others.