Christian Robles, Contributing Photographer

More than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, local nonprofits, New Haven Public Schools and the city’s Youth and Recreation Department have made tentative summer youth programming plans — many of which are in person.

Last Friday, the Youth and Recreation Department published Mayor Justin Elicker’s Summer Youth Guide 2021, a booklet that details various summer youth activities. According to Elicker, the majority of programs in the guide are either free or low cost for New Haven residents.

“The success of our youth is vital to the future of New Haven,” Mehul Dalal, New Haven’s general services administrator, wrote in the Mayor’s Summer Youth Guide 2021. “[The city, nonprofits and other organizations] are planning exciting programming for all children from birth to 19 years of age. We strongly encourage you to take advantage and join in on fun and exciting experiences.”

Youth and Rec, NHPS’ ‘Summer of Fun’

According to New Haven Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Keisha Redd-Hannans, the district is working with the Youth and Recreation Department to have a “summer of fun.”

“We are calling this summer a ‘summer of fun’ in New Haven,” Redd-Hannans said at Monday’s biweekly Board of Education meeting. “And it’s critically important we emphasize fun. We want to make the enrichment activities, hands-on activities as fun as possible to re-engage students in the learning process.”

Redd-Hannans said that NHPS wants students to experience hiking, recreational activities and arts and crafts this summer. However, the full details for the summer’s programming have yet to be finalized. At Monday’s meeting, Superintendent Iline Tracey indicated that organizers were planning for mainly in-person activities this summer, although some BOE members said they would like to see optional remote programming available as well.

On Wednesday, NHPS added a “summer family needs” survey onto its website, which asks New Haven families if they prefer in-person or remote summer programming. The survey also asks NHPS families what kinds of summer academic and enrichment programming they would like to see provided, in addition to other community resources such as food pantries. Summer programming may shift based on the survey’s results.

At Thursday’s Board of Alders Finance Committee meeting, Tracey and Phillip Penn, chief financial officer for NHPS, said the summer plans will take place from July 1 to July 31. The “summer of fun” campsites will be held at 11 NHPS schools, eight of which are for K-4 students and three of which are for K-8 students. High school students will have their own individual sites. The presentation also mentions a “summer of fun fitness challenge” that includes a fitness walk and Back to School Rally to be held on Aug. 15.

In the Mayor’s Summer Youth Guide 2021, NHPS is also accepting applications for an early childhood summer program. According to the listing, parents of three- and four-year-old children are encouraged to apply. It does not specify if activities are expected to be in person, remote or hybrid. Interested parents are encouraged to contact a Head Start or School Readiness program coordinator at esther.pearson-pinckey@nhboe.net, luz.lopez-broderick@new-haven.k12.ct.us, or paul.lepri@new-haven.k12.ct.us.

ConnCAT Summer Arts

ConnCAT, a local education and vocational training nonprofit, is planning to offer its six-week summer program after canceling it last year due to the pandemic. Steve Driffin, youth and community programs manager for ConnCAT, told the News that they are planning to maintain safety through social distancing and “bubble” groups, limiting enrollment to 40. Previous ConnCAT summer programs have included over 70 participants.

According to the Summer 2021 Youth Guide, the program will take place Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and is available to students from grades five to 10.

ConnCAT’s summer program, which began in 2013, themes its teaching around a different historical era each year. Programs in past years have explored the Harlem Renaissance and the 1960s. Students explore the social issues of the period through art, digital media and performance, and they often collaborate with local artists.

Driffin wrote in an email to the News that the goal of this program for students to “develop and express their ideas, concerns, and passions through the arts and the black experience in American history.”

According to Driffin, this year’s theme will be “Motown: Now I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” The program’s application will open on April 30 at this link.

Boys & Girls Club

At no cost aside from a $20 fee for new members, the Boys & Girls Club of New Haven, or B&GC, will be offering their annual summer camp for children aged six to 14. The program will run for eight weeks, starting on June 28 and ending on Aug. 20.

Barbara Chesler, interim executive director of the B&GC, told the News that the B&GC was still able to offer its program in person last summer — although it was limited to about 55 children and ran only for six weeks. This year, she said, they are hoping to bring attendance numbers back up, closer to usual — around 125 or 135 children throughout the summer — by utilizing the safety models that they have developed at their learning hub in the past year.

According to Won Jung ’20, director of programs and administration at the B&GC, its summer program will have “an academic focus in the morning, and then traditional summer fun in the afternoon.”

Breakfast and lunch will be served for free at the B&GC, according to the Summer 2021 Youth Guide, and students will have the opportunity to participate in a range of activities including sports, arts and music. They will also receive mentoring and literacy training to facilitate “summer brain gain,” according to their brochure.

The application for this year’s summer camp is available on the B&GC website. The priority deadline is April 27.

Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services 

Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services, or IRIS, is a local nonprofit that “empowers refugees and immigrants to become self-sufficient and integrated into their new communities,” according to its website. While not listed in the Mayor’s Summer Youth Guide, IRIS is hoping to provide in-person summer programming this year, but said that its final plans are still subject to change.

Dennis Wilson, director of education services for IRIS, told the News that IRIS has requested to use Wilbur Cross High School to host two programs this year, a K-12 English enrichment program and a family literacy program.

The K-12 program for refugee and immigrant students focuses on student academics and English language learning. In prior years, the program has incorporated tennis practice, fossil analysis and therapy dogs into its summer activities. Wilson added that IRIS is also working with the district to offer high school students academic credit for their participation in the program. IRIS’ family literacy program offers child care for toddlers while parents receive adult English education.

IRIS hopes to start its seven-week program on June 28. The program is expected to run from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Wilson said that while IRIS will likely fill up program slots from its clients and referrals from NHPS teachers, organizers would like to have volunteers sign up to support the group this summer. Interested volunteers can email volunteer@irisct.org.

Summer vacation for NHPS students will begin on June 18.

Sylvan Lebrun | sylvan.lebrun@yale.edu

Christian Robles | christian.robles@yale.edu

SYLVAN LEBRUN
Sylvan Lebrun covers local nonprofits and social services. She is a first-year in Pauli Murray College majoring in English.
CHRISTIAN ROBLES
Christian Robles covers education & youth services. He is a sophomore in Davenport College studying Political Science and Economics.