In 2016, the Mayor and City Council committed $12 million to establish the Baltimore Children and Youth Fund. Child First was one of the inaugural grantees and received generous funding to expand and enhance middle school offerings during the school year and to provide summer programming for middle school youth for the first time in Child First history.
Typically, middle school-aged youth are reluctant to participate in structured summer programs. But with the help of peer leaders known as youth ambassadors, enrollment was consistent throughout the program. The youth ambassadors met monthly with Child First staff to reflect on programming and to plan events. Joint planning gave students an opportunity to practice compromise and collaboration. They were leaders and advocates for their peers and helped to bridge the gap between students and school-based staff. Programming was successful because staff surveyed youth interests, tailored the programming in response to the student feedback, and utilized the youth ambassadors as eyes and ears of the program which helped to hold the staff team accountable.
During the four-week summer program, 40 students from five middle schools received grade-level and above grade-level whole group instruction in literacy. Teachers implemented the Baltimore City Public School System’s curriculum Wit and Wisdom, which improved most of the students’ writing. Students received differentiated small group instruction and home assignments through the online program. Fifty-two percent of students assessed on a pre-and post-test showed academic growth in both reading comprehension and writing. Students gained knowledge through S.T.E.M field trips to places such as the Autobahn Indoor Speedway, Turkey Hill Experience, and iFly Indoor Skydiving, as well fun trips to the Ravens training camp and amusement and water parks.