WASHINGTON, May 12, 2013 – The DC Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation (The Trust) are working hard to start a new summer tradition for DC’s youth: The One City Summer Initiative (OCSI).
Now in its third year, the initiative that benefits over forty-thousand District youth, children, and their families is quickly becoming a model of what can be achieved through collaboration between government agencies, nonprofits organizations and communities in pursuit of a common goal.
Mayor Gray spearheaded the OCSI initiative in 2011 as a cross-agency approach to developing and implementing summer programs and activities for youth. The core focus was on safety and structure for District youth while out of school for the summer.
Building on the successes of 2011, the 2012 initiative more clearly defined a set of youth outcomes that helped guide the city’s approach to providing high quality summer experiences for 40,227 youth, with a particular focus on the 8,099 who attended programs located in five target neighborhoods.
These target neighborhoods were identified through a collaborative effort between the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the multi-agency OCSI steering committee, using juvenile crime and education data, and other social indicators such as drug abuse, teen pregnancy rates, and food deserts.
Why is summer such an important time of the year for our youth? Ask a young person, and the obvious answer is that school is out. However, the reality is that we have so many potentially idle hands and idle minds during the summer months, it is imperative we have structured activities that are critical to their continued growth and development.
The One City Summer Initiative was developed to reverse certain negative trends that exist during the summer such as summer learning loss and spikes in crime.
It’s also a time to take advantage of opportunities to help students gain workforce development skills and to bring families closer together. Research from the National Summer Learning Association indicates that all students experience leaning loss when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer.
In fact, most students lose about two months of math skill development, and low-income students lose two months of reading achievement. If this trend goes unaddressed, by the time a student graduates, they are years behind in math and reading. The OCSI ensures that youth have access to academic enrichment opportunities that help mitigate summer learning loss so they return to school on or above par.
One of the most tangible successes of the summer initiative so far is that we have seen a reduction in crime in some of the neighborhoods targeted during the summer for intensive programming. We believe if we increase programming, and not just police presence, youth will opt to engage in constructive activities, and not crime. Violent crimes declined in the target areas with homicide down 70%, robbery down 15% and armed burglary down 25%. Juvenile arrests for select violent crimes decreased by an average of 40% in the target areas. That is a true summer success story.
With over 12,000 youth employed through the Department of Employment Service’s Summer Youth Employment Program, young people had the opportunity to gain real work experience and earn money. We are looking at ways to improve the programming to ensure youth gain employment skills that they can use as adults in the workforce.
And what would summer be without fun for the whole family? With the demands of work, school, and just navigating life, many District families have very little positive and fun family engagement opportunities. The OCSI includes activities designed to bring families and whole communities together to have fun in a festive environment that strengthens families and fosters a sense of community pride.
One of the most important facts about the OCSI initiative is that whether you are looking for food or fun, the majority of the programs and activities are free. The Department of Parks and Recreation and other sites served 26,000 free daily meals through the DC Free Summer Meals Program during the six-week OCSI period.
The Trust provided of $2.5 million in grants to community-based organizations so they could provide free sports, arts, dance and other enrichment programs.
The program has been a huge success. Not only does the outcomes we have achieved say so, but also the participating youth — the opinions that matter the most. Of youth surveyed, 96% indicated that they were satisfied with the type of programs and activities offered during the summer; and 71% said they would recommend the program to their friends.
The Trust is working hard with District agency partners to improve the overall coordination and the specific programs and activities of the initiative to allow more youth to participate and to achieve even greater outcomes. We will be launching a website, http://OneCityYouth.dc.gov, for youth and parents to find information about programs and events.
For residents ‘on the go,’ the DC Youth Program Finder app is being developed to help youth and families find activities in neighborhoods across the city based on their location and interests. From performing and theater arts to creative writing, job readiness and college preparation, the app will help those we serve locate program names, addresses, directions, websites and contact information allowing them to make informed decisions.
The OCSI is an excellent example of public and private partners working together to meet the needs of DC youth and families. The effective coordination by the Trust of all these government, nonprofit and community resources will make this summer even more impactful for youth, and will have long term results.
So in the coming weeks and months, as you head to Nationals Park and fire up the grill, remember another tradition that is firmly taking root in the nation’s capital and making an incredible difference in the lives of young people.
The DC Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation is the primary resource for developing partnerships that expand and improve services and opportunities for children and youth in the District of Columbia, especially during their time out of school. The partnerships include public schools, city agencies and employers, including non-profit providers. Since its inception in 1999, the Trust has provided grants, technical assistance, youth worker training, capacity building, learning opportunities, convening’s and policy support in the District. For more information, visit www.cyitc.org.
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