Meeting Students’ Needs Year-Round
The Dearborn Academy Summer Program is designed to meet the needs of students who benefit from academic support as well as opportunities to socialize with friends, learn new skills, get outdoors and have fun during the summer months. The program was added to Dearborn’s offerings in 1987 when the school’s staff identified a mounting need to offer enrichment experiences for their students during the extended times they were not in school.
According to former Dearborn Academy director Howard Rossman and former elementary/middle school director Carol Cole, the staff was concerned that without structured and specially-designed activities and instruction, students could easily regress over the summer months. In a survey sent out to the towns about students’ summer needs, school districts, caregivers and case managers echoed the Dearborn staff members’ concern.
The message that came back was clear: An option to send students to a summer program would be welcomed and highly desirable. As a result, Dearborn staff members joined together to create a summer program for elementary/middle school students.
The program opened up for Dearborn in 1988. It was based on the structured approach – and instilled the philosophy of – the school’s academic-year program. It was recreational, as well as educational. In addition to an academic period, there were enrichment activities, as well as adventure and activity-based programs. These all were designed to be positive and collaborative, and they steadily fostered social/emotional growth.
The Program Today
On the academic side, academic year teachers collaborate with summer program teachers to ensure that skills attained over the school year are maintained during the summer months. Likewise, clinicians pass along important information about students’ mental health needs and skill development so that summer program clinicians can support students in practicing skills learned during the academic year in the summer program. On the recreational side, students go on field trips and adventure-based outings.
As the program has evolved, the staff has increased the educational offerings in response to parental requests. There is a reading group, and speech and language services are now provided by a reading specialist and speech and language pathologist.
Open to Grades 3-12
A high school component had also been added. Starting this summer, high school students earn credit towards graduation, and rising seniors complete a college admissions essay. Older students can act as counselors-in-training for the younger students, and all classes now take daily community based trips. Dearborn Academy academic year staff enjoy working with students during the summer program. This year, the summer program is fully staffed by 10-month employees who choose to work during the six-week summer session.
The goal of the Dearborn Academy Summer Program is to help students consolidate and, in some cases, build on the academic, social and emotional progress they made in the previous school year – all while having fun. All of that is happening today, thanks to the creative efforts, three decades ago, of a dedicated group of Dearborn staff.
They had a vision of how to improve the lives of their students and, thankfully, they brought that vision to fruition.