03/16/2012 02:39 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

600 Summer Learning Scholarships for Chicago Students

With an increasing number of students dropping out of school and budget cuts creating a decrease in educational opportunities and an increase in summer violence and hopelessness among youth, it's imperative to keep our children engaged over the summer.

Studies compiled by the National Summer Learning Association show:

1. Students lose two months of grade-level equivalency in math skills during the summer months.

2. Students living in low-income communities lose more than two months in reading and math, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains.

3. About two-thirds of the ninth-grade achievement gap between lower and higher income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities during the elementary school years. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college.

4. Parents consistently cite summer as the most difficult time to ensure that their children have productive things to do.

Summer Advantage USA, a research-based summer learning program that works with school districts to increase student achievement, has been granted funding from the Walmart Foundation to pay for 600 Chicago summer learning scholarship. The students (who Summer Advantage calls "scholars") will participate in academic, enrichment and physical fitness activities for five weeks this summer.

I was glad Summer Advantage Chicago Regional Director Sheila Brillson could answer questions regarding the opportunity for Chicago students.

Earl: What is your goal for Summer Advantage in Chicago?

Sheila: Our goal is to increase all children's access to quality summer learning opportunities by bringing this research based program to hundreds of Chicago children. We also look forward to partnering with Chicago leaders to be part of the national movement to help reverse summer learning loss.

Earl: What are the benefits to schools partnering with the program?

Sheila: We bring our proven program model -- 160 hours of additional instructional time as well as inspirational speakers and learning trips on Fun Fridays. We work as partners with our schools, our families and our scholars to create an engaging learning environment for innovative summer learning. With pre- and post-standardized testing of our scholars, we tailor the curriculum-based lessons to our scholars' academic needs with the goal of not just stopping learning loss or "summer slide" but making academic gains-and having fun!


Chicago Director Sheila Brillson courtesy of Summer Advantage USA

Earl: How can educators and school leaders get in contact with you or express an interest?

Sheila: This is a great time to reach out if you'd like more information or would like to host our program at your school. If a school is interested in partnering with Summer Advantage this summer or would like more information, send me an email at If you would like to join us in serving students, I encourage you to select the careers tab at

I encourage Chicago leaders to tap the resources available for Chicago youth. Let's make this summer a wonderful experience for our children.