METCO Students Join Friends and Make New Ones at SummerFun!

SummerFun!, offered through Arlington Community Education (ACE), is a remarkable day program that offers educational and fun opportunities to Arlington Public Schools students during July and August. This is a great way for students to connect with their friends, make new ones, learn new skills, and explore their interests through the summer months. It is wonderful to report that APS offered a special program that enabled our METCO students to attend during three weeks in July.

Building community connection and family relationships between the APS Boston-based students and their Arlington classmates is an important goal for METCO Director Richelle Smith, and she knew that attending SummerFun! together could contribute to this. Discussions with members of the ACE team as to the best ways to make this happen began during the 2019-2020 school year, and this summer the program was launched.

Students were able to sign-up for any two classes of interest, and ACE Director Jen Rothenberg and Ms. Smith were available to assist families in choosing the best ones for each child. They publicized the program through a virtual meeting with parents, and Ms. Smith created flyers for the students to take home and discuss with an adult. Ms. Smith also rode the METCO bus on several occasions before school ended so that she could talk to students and assess their interest in the program.

Ms. Smith worked with Arlington Transportation in order to secure a bus and determine the best routes to ensure safety to and from the program. Malika Whitley, a Peirce METCO Teaching Assistant who had developed relationships with many of the Boston-based  elementary students throughout the school year, signed-on as Bus Monitor and Onsite METCO Liaison. Each day, she made sure the participants got their breakfast and lunch, met their assigned teachers, attended any special academic sessions that were required, and received their snacks as they got back on the bus. She also did periodic check-ins with the young people and was available to troubleshoot any issues that arose.

The young people who attended, 17 the first week, 18 the second, and 15 the third, are students at Bishop, Peirce, Hardy, and Ottoson. Their interests were varied–arts classes such as Watercolor Around the World and Drawing Comics; music and movement such as Digital Music, Feel the Rhythm, and Sports of All Sorts; academic such as Playing with Science, Hands-on Electronics, and Amazing Gazing–Stars and Planets; cooking and skills development such as Veggie Kitchen, Babysitting basics, and Wall Street Bootcamp. Each child attended for an entire day, arriving for breakfast at 8:30 am and boarding the bus after the final class ended at 3:30 pm. The students were surveyed about their experiences every week and the results demonstrate a very high level of satisfaction.

Partnership was the key to creating this wonderful program, and Ms. Smith is gratified by the way people came together to create and support it. Lunch came from D’Agostino’s Monday through Thursday and the Arlington House of Pizza and Domino's Pizza provided the pies for Friday lunches. Ms. Smith used the gift cards provided by the Arlington Youth Counseling Center  to purchase breakfast options to go along with the juice, fruit and milk provided by Arlington EATS. Additional support came from The Friends of Arlington METCO, Ottoson Principal Brian Meringer, the on-site SummerFun! Directors, members of the Arlington Public Schools administrative staff, and the METCO families and students.

Ms. Smith considers the SummerFun! program for our Boston-based students as one of the METCO team’s greatest accomplishments of the 2021-2022 school year.  As she expresses it, “Seeing the smiles on the students’ faces at the beginning and end of the day made all the effort worthwhile.” She looks forward to the 2022-2023 SummerFun! program and partnerships.