The need for more summer opportunities, meals and supervision across the county grows every day.

Katie Riley is president of Washington County Kids. You can reach her at 
Although summer is often thought of as a carefree time of fun and exploration, the reality is often quite different for many youth today.

While summer remains an ideal time for new opportunities, the truth is that it can be a challenging time for low-income and underserved youth. Summers spent without quality learning opportunities put our youth at risk of falling behind academically and our families without necessary care.

Research shows that high-quality learning opportunities of all kinds during the summer can make a difference in preventing "summer slide" — the learning loss between the last day of school in June and the first day of school in September. Summer slide is a phenomenon experienced by most students, but more significantly by historically underserved students. By fifth grade, cumulative years of summer learning loss can leave low-income students 2.5 to 3 years behind their higher-income peers.

Public and private organizations throughout Washington County are working to close this achievement gap by providing quality summer opportunities that enable and inspire youth to keep learning during the summer months.

Many of these providers are part of a countywide effort called Washington County Kids (WCK), a coalition of community partners working together to increase awareness of the need for sustainable sources of funding to increase out-of-school-time programs and identify solutions that support long term success for all youth in Washington County. While dozens of opportunities happen around the county, program cost and access to transportation remain barriers for many kids.

To help families remove barriers, WCK has put together information about many summer programs that are available, including:

n Summer literacy: Take a trip to the Beaverton City Library to explore the Universe of Stories as part of their summer reading program. Find a whole list online, or in person, of drop-in and drop-off free opportunities taking place in Beaverton to support children and teen literacy this summer.

n STEM (science, technology, engineering, math): At Sherwood YMCA, Math Gamers offers camps for a weekly fee or include the arts at STEAM Camp at Cornelius' Centro Cultural. Additional STEM camps are available at Pacific University through Saturday Academy. Hillsboro School District is participating in the region-wide Summer Works program that provides work experience and training for youth 16-24 years old. This free training opportunity could be one key to getting youth college & career ready.

n Sports & Fitness: Summer Camps at Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District or search free swim days for a low-cost option to stay cool. Hillsboro Parks and Recreation also offers a full range of camps and swim activities.

Along with academic and enrichment opportunities, access to food during the summer is a huge issue for thousands of homeless, low-income and isolated youth. For youth who may access three meals a day at school during the year, food insecurity becomes food inaccessibility when summer comes. Thankfully, throughout the state, 133 programs with more than 800 sites are working to increase access to food at libraries, schools, parks, and community organizations. But the reality is, even with hundreds of sites operating throughout the summer, only 1 in 8 children that are eligible for free and reduced-price school meals currently participate in the summer.

We see that the need for more summer opportunities, meals and supervision is real. Whether families are looking for safe and reliable care, engaging activities for middle school youth or job skill development for older youth, WCK's out-of-school-time partners are working together to meet the needs of youth and families.

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