There was a time when heading back to school in September was tough for 10-year-old Shaylah Rivard.
“It was harder for my brain to function because I wasn’t really learning over the summertime,” she said, during an interview last summer.
That all changed after Rivard enrolled in the CSI program – which stands for Community School Investigators – a free, five-week academic program designed to combat summer learning loss. She took part in the program for the second time in 2014.
Now in its 11th year, CSI is operated by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Winnipeg (BGCW). This year, about 800 students at 14 schools will participate.
Summer learning loss is a particular concern for children living in poverty, who have fewer opportunities to participate in camps and summer programs. Of course, CSI isn’t all about academic studies; students focus on math and literacy in the morning and in the afternoon they participate in activities like sports and field trips.
“We’ve had teachers tell us that with kids who participate in CSI, they see a difference when they come back in September. It doesn’t take [students] as long to remember and they are on track,” said Robyn Peters, BGCW’s Manager of Children’s Programs.
Food is also a big part of the program and students receive two full meals each day at CSI. Nourishing Potential grants from The Winnipeg Foundation have helped support the purchase of healthy food and cooking equipment.
“We serve breakfast and [… it gives] them the energy they need to participate in their activities, and helps them in their growth,” Peters says. “We focus on the nutritional aspect to teach them healthy eating habits as they might not get that at home.”
Without these meals, the program would not be able to run for full days or offer such a rich learning experience, say BGCW staff.
Parents of participants comment that one of the most important parts of the program is knowing that their children will be able to eat breakfast and lunch each day. Many of the children who attend CSI are part breakfast and lunch programs at their schools – leaving a gap in their nutrition support during the summer months.
So, in addition to summer learning loss, CSI is also helping address the summer nutrition needs of Winnipeg kids – thanks to Nourishing Potential.
This summer, you can join Jonathan Toews – Nourishing Potential ambassador and donor – and help nourish the potential of Winnipeg kids. You can make a gift online, in person at the Foundation office or any branch of Assiniboine Credit Union or by texting GOAL to 45678.
An earlier version of this article appeared in August, 2014.
Updates by Kerry Ryan. All photos by Ian McCausland originally published in Winnipeg Foundation publications.