Baker-Polito Administration, United Way Celebrate Second Successful Year of Summer Step Up Initiative

September 2, 2022

BOSTON –  The Baker-Polito Administration and United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley are pleased to celebrate a second successful year of Summer Step Up, an initiative launched by the administration to expand and enhance recreation and learning opportunities for children entering pre-kindergarten through grade 2. The program is part of the Baker-Polito Administration’s $60 million investment in youth summer learning opportunities and is administered by the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and the region’s largest United Way.

Summer Step Up launched in 2021 as an innovative statewide effort designed to accelerate learning and provide additional support to the state’s youngest learners during the summer. This year, the Commonwealth provided up to $8.5 million to 75 partner organizations and school districts in 30 communities, expanding and enhancing summer learning opportunities for more than 2,000 children who may have had limited access to in-person learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Summer Step Up provides more opportunities for our youngest learners to learn and play, building a foundation for their academic success when they enter school in the fall,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We were pleased to be able to support this program for a second year and engage more children in summer activities at no cost to their families.”

“Our administration is pleased to partner with United Way, local school districts, and community partners to provide vital summer learning opportunities to prepare children for the start of school,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “Continuing our investment in summer learning opportunities throughout the Commonwealth is an important strategy to accelerate readiness for learning and to set our youngest learners on a path for success in school.”

“We continue to be committed to the important work of preparing young children for school, by partnering with communities in innovative and productive ways that engage young people in active learning during critical summer months,” said Education Secretary James Peyser. “When we launched summer programming last year, we knew it would be a multi-year effort to help students of all ages be prepared and regain ground both academically and socially.”

Summer Step Up programs engage young learners and ease their transition to school in the fall, providing a strong foundation for academic success in the early grades. The program allows children to attend extended day programs at community-based organizations, increase participation in preschool camps, or enroll in new programs created with the support of Summer Step Up funding. The program provides opportunities for children to learn and play to accelerate academic and social-emotional development, at no cost to their families.

United Way continues to provide partnership coordination, facilitation, and support to school districts and community-based organizations, designing programs to best serve children and families and securing and designing contracts with professional development organizations to meet each community’s needs. United Way works closely with community leaders to convene partners, helping to build a coordinated network of support within communities, which helps strengthen connections between school districts and community organizations to ensure students receive the resources they need to stay on track for educational success.

“We are pleased to partner with our schools and community providers to offer a second year of Summer Step Up programs,” said EEC Acting Commissioner Amy Kershaw. “Summer programming is an essential tool for engaging young learners in the social-emotional and academic skill building that will prepare them for a strong start to school.”
“Summer has always been a critical time to ensure that students remain engaged in their learning and that remains particularly true amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and its disparate impact on student outcomes,” said Bob Giannino, President and CEO at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “United Way is proud to partner with school districts and community organizations to meet students’ needs this summer and we appreciate the Baker-Polito Administration for continuing to prioritize funding to support accelerated learning, social-emotional development, and enrichment opportunities for the Commonwealth’s youngest learners.”

Summer Step Up increases access and affordability of care for families, serving students most in need of supportive, affirming learning environments. The funding also supports staff planning, meeting, training time, and transportation, which was critical this summer in stabilizing routines for families, particularly as parents and caregivers transitioned to in-person or hybrid work schedules this summer.

This year, Summer Step Up funding served children and families in the communities of Attleboro, Boston, Chelsea, Everett, Fitchburg, Framingham, Haverhill, Holyoke, Hoosac Valley Regional District, Lawrence, Leominster, Lynn, Marshfield, North Adams, Northampton, North Berkshire School Union District, Peabody, Randolph, Revere, Salem, Somerville, Southbridge, Southern Berkshire Regional School District, Springfield, Stoneham, Sturbridge, Taunton, Waltham, Winthrop, and Worcester.

United Way is the largest private funder of OST programs in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, providing unrestricted and programmatic grants to over 100 organizations. Through its investment in OST programs and initiatives, United Way has prioritized holistic youth development programs serving historically marginalized students.

Pictured above:  Governor Baker at Summer Step Up Celebration at For Kids Only in August, 2021.