Youth Volunteers Reduce Summer Learning Loss in Fairfax County
Submitted by: Jennifer Fauss, Director, CPDC Volunteer Engagement
While most teenagers spend their summer break taking it easy, 15 Stony Brook teens spent their summer working on improving the academic abilities of their fellow community youth.
The Stony Brook Summer Learning Loss Prevention Program, a tutoring program led by volunteers, took aim at curbing “summer slide,” the loss of knowledge and academic ability that happens over the summer months. “Research overwhelmingly shows that students lose knowledge in the summer months,” said Ryan Barton, CIS Manager at Stony Brook. “This is magnified for low-income, minority, immigrant youth— the exact youth that the program served.”
Led by Summer Education Program Manager and 2018 Fairfax County Youth Volunteer of the Year, Racheal Appiah, the program paired teens and elementary aged youth in a 1-on-1 setting, where they focused on language arts and math. Throughout the duration of the summer, each pair formed a trusting bond. “The tutors and the students grew close over the summer,” said Racheal. “That meant that students and tutors both were committed to the program and getting better every day.”
Creativity Became a Way of Teaching During the Summer
Prior to the start of the program, each of the 33 youth participants were formally assessed in both their language arts and math abilities. These results helped inform the needs of each student. While tutors were provided access to a plethora of educational materials and technology, it was ultimately the responsibility of each tutor to develop a course of study for their students over the summer. That’s where the creativity of the teen volunteers shined.
“We saw some amazingly creative ideas from tutors,” said Racheal. “One tutor taught her student how to tell time by making clocks from various materials. Another taught a young student basic addition using Skittles that they then got to eat if they answered questions correctly.” Tutors spent four hours each week with their student, splitting that time between language arts and math engagement. In total, the tutors and youth spent 23 sessions together over six weeks.
The Results Reflect the Efforts of the Volunteers
Of the 33 youth that participated in the Summer Learning Loss Program, a formal post-assessment showed that 31 youth improved their language arts abilities over the course of the program, while 27 youth improved their math abilities over the summer. “It’s not even that the youth maintained their ability levels,” said Barton, “but it’s the fact they improved.”
“The results are incredible, and a testament not only to the dedication of the volunteer tutors, but of the youth and their families to commit to improve themselves over the summer months. It’s easy to take the summer off. But everyone involved in the program decided early on that this was important and necessary – and it’s that dedication that resulted in the program’s success,” Barton expressed.
In total, 15 teenage volunteers served over 750 hours as tutors in the program. Of the 15 volunteers and 33 youth who began the program, not even one dropped out.
The Stony Brook Summer Learning Loss Program received funding from the Community Foundation of Northern Virginia Community Investment Fund, the Fairfax County Consolidated Community Funding Pool and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation Summer Reading program.