DeVaughn is part of Summer Bridge, a new program created this summer by D.C. Public Schools and the D.C. Department of Employment Services that aims to prepare incoming freshmen for high school through a combination of school work and career training.
“I was excited when I found out,” DeVaughn said. “I’d rather do this than a job.”
Traditionally, the roughly 14,000 youths aged 14 to 21 in the youth employment program are sent to a variety of work sites, where they perform routine tasks and shadow other workers.
But in June, DeVaughn received a letter informing her that she and about 300 other rising freshmen who applied to the program would be spending six weeks of the summer at one of two high schools — McKinley and H.D. Woodson.
Summer Bridge had initially enrolled 95 students who volunteered to participate. Instead of pay, those students will receive one-half of a high-school credit for the six-week program, which ends Friday. To fill the remaining slots, the District chose from the pool of Summer Youth Employment applicants.
“I think it’s great to have a learning setting she can actually get paid for,” said DeVaughn’s mother, Juanita DeVaughn. “I was happy she got something that could help her to have a foundation for high school.”
Some experts say that keeping students in an academic program over the summer can help curb summer learning loss, the term for the knowledge and skills students forget over the break.
“Summer Bridge addresses two very real problems: the lack of good workforce skills and summer learning loss,” said Kris Amundson, strategic communications director for Education Sector, a D.C. think tank. “Then again, if this looks and feels like school, there might be problems in September when kids say, ‘Hey, you paid me to come in July, why not now?’”
Organizers say Summer Bridge is more employment training than summer school. None of the students in Summer Bridge are missing credits or risk being held back a year, although some were selected for the program because they were behind in grades or attendance.
Along with traditional math and reading assignments, students in the program work through an online course that simulates running a sports network. They take career assessments and deliver presentations.
In some past years, thousands of Summer Youth Employment students were paid to attend so-called “educational enrichment programs,” which a city official once called “paid summer school.”