A Note from the Director: Celebrating Summer Learning

Earlier this week, I had the honor of joining summer learning leaders at the New York Stock Exchange as the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) celebrated its 25th anniversary.  In opening the event, Matthew Boulay, NSLA founder and CEO declared, “Ensuring our children are engaged and learning during the summer months must be a national imperative,” and reminded guests that, “Studies show that leaving kids unattended during the summer - without any programmed activities - is detrimental to their education and health.”

It is with this understanding that Spring Forward dedicates much of our efforts to summer learning.  This year, we are serving more than 400 kids at five summer camps, providing teachers at The Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center’s camp and partnering with Augustana College for the newly created Kids on Campus.  All our six-week camps are offered at no cost to families and include breakfast, lunch, field trips, art, STEM activities and literacy lessons.

Research shows that summers without quality learning opportunities put our kids at risk for falling behind – year after year – in core subjects like reading.  The skills many of our kids lose each summer are cumulative and contribute significantly to the achievement gap. To address this, Spring Forward employs a team of teachers at all camps who provide literacy instruction thirty minutes a day, four days a week.  Our top goal has remained steady - to ensure our campers maintain reading levels over the summer so they are well prepared to enter the next grade.

Spring Forward’s summer work began and continues through the vision and support of the Doris and Victor Day Foundation.  Since 2010, the Rock Island based foundation has provided Spring Forward and other nonprofits more than $750,000 for summer programs.  This commitment has helped provide camp experiences for thousands of children and leveraged additional funds to help grow programs every year.   

All of our efforts are part of a larger, growing movement in the Quad Cities.  Camps, libraries, museums and other nonprofits throughout our community are providing more and more programs designed to keep kids learning over the summer months.  On Thursday, July 12, Spring Forward will host many of these partners for our Second Annual Stepping Up for Summer Learning at the TaxSlayer Center. The event, sponsored by John Deere, is the single largest Summer Learning Day event in Iowa or Illinois, hosting more than 800 campers and 40 community activity partners.  

We are off to a great start, but I also know we can do more.  Our kids need us and by working together, we can continue to grow the summer learning movement in the Quad Cities.


Dan McNeil

Executive Director

Spring Forward Learning Center