Thursday, March 19, 2009

Stimulus Funds Provide Opportunity to Strategically Build Summer of Service Programs

On March 7, 2009, the US Department of Education (USDE) released guidance for disbursing $10 billion in new funding for Title I that was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). A strategic use of these funds within the USDE’s guidance includes opportunities to support Summer of Service (SOS) programs.

High quality SOS programs target authentic community needs through service-learning activities that challenge young people to solve problems, build valuable life skills, reflect critically about their role in society, and pave the way for academic success in high school and beyond. SOS programs require a sustained and intensive commitment over the summer months to plan, execute, reflect and recognize the contributions of young people as leaders in tackling critical community issues.

Title I is a set of programs that distribute funds to schools serving a high percentage of low-income students. Funding SOS programs would be a strategic use of ARRA Title I funds that meets the USDE guidance and fulfills some of its goals. According to the USDE statement, “These funds create an unprecedented opportunity for educators to implement innovative strategies in Title I schools that improve education for at-risk students and close the achievement gaps while also stimulating the economy.” The statement can be read at the USDE website here.

SOS programs are an innovative approach to improving education for at-risk middle school youth that provide opportunities for them to enter their teenage years with a positive experience that reinforces community connections, enlivens their education, and strengthens personal and civic values. These programs help close the achievement gaps by engaging students in service-learning that increases their potential for access and success in college and beyond. They stimulate the economy by creating jobs for educators and summer program staff while also responding to genuine community needs.

SOS programs also fit well into one of the potential uses for ARRA funds listed in the USDE guidance: “Establishing or expanding fiscally sustainable extended learning opportunities for Title I-eligible students in targeted assistance programs, including activities provided before school, after school, during the summer, or over an extended school year.”

Establishing and expanding SOS programs would be a strategic use of ARRA funds that meets Title I’s goal of improving the academic achievement of disadvantaged youth. Innovations in Civic Participation (ICP) is committed to supporting and encouraging the development of successful SOS programs targeted at low-income, at-risk middle school students. SOS programs that partner with or are provided through Title I schools could greatly expand their reach and impact with the help of increased Title I funds through the ARRA.

The USDE plans to award $5 billion of the ARRA Title I funds by the end of March 2009. The USDE’s expediency in awarding these funds could prove incredibly beneficial to SOS programs in Summer 2009, especially since current legislation including the recently passed House of Representatives’ GIVE Act would help establish or implement SOS programs this year. The GIVE Act reauthorizes and strengthens the programs of the Corporation for National and Community Service and provides funding for new innovative programs, including SOS. By targeting ARRA Title I funds at SOS programs, dynamic educational opportunities for at-risk middle school youth would be greatly increased.

ICP has launched a SOS Online Resource Center to provide a forum for information exchange on Summer of Service program design, implementation, and evaluation for practitioners in the field. Improvements and expansion of the Resource Center are coming soon.

For more information, please visit or contact Jean Manney at or 202-775-0290.

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