Summer wrap-up: Keeping kids learning outside of school hours

In Nebraska, we are blessed with one of the nation’s best public school systems, thanks to long-term investments by generations of Nebraskans in the future of our state and our most precious resource: our youth. While we at Nebraska Children are driven by our mission to provide all youth with the support they need to reach their full potential, as we look at school systems in other states, our appreciation of the public education system we have in Nebraska only grows.

However, we also know from our work in support of early childhood care and education that learning doesn’t start on the first day of kindergarten – nor does it stop when each school year ends. And although summer lasts only three months, when you add up each summer over a child’s K-12 years, it equals more than three years of time that could be used on additional learning opportunities.

Unfortunately, those hours of opportunity are not utilized in the same way by all Nebraska youth. While some children’s summers are full of days jam-packed with creative play, books, vacation trips, and camps, many low-income kids across our state don’t have access to the same learning opportunities as their more affluent classmates. Research shows that when they return to school at the end of summer, these two groups’ difference in access to summer learning opportunities has a dramatic impact on their readiness to learn and their ability to take advantage of the new educational opportunities that come with each new year.


Besmir Gjoka, Jeff Cole, and Lt. Governor Mike Foley celebrating July 14’s designation as Summer Learning Day in Nebraska.

That’s why we believe summer learning programs are so important in our efforts to bridge the opportunity gap that causes a pernicious achievement gap between low-income youth and their more affluent classmates. Lt. Governor Mike Foley recently recognized the importance of summer learning by issuing a proclamation signed by Governor Pete Ricketts that identifies July 14 as Summer Learning Day in Nebraska.


How we can help

Expanding support for and broadening access to high-quality summer learning opportunities is a priority of Beyond School Bells, Nebraska Children’s statewide expanded learning network. Fortunately, it is a priority that is shared by a growing number of communities across the state. Indeed, many Nebraska communities are providing hands-on, engaging summer learning activities for thousands of high-need youth through collaborative efforts that bring together the talents of schools and community-based organizations. These include communities that are part of Beyond School Bells’ 10-city coalition of expanded learning programs, including:


Kearney, where youth have access to a wide variety of programming, including hands-on projects using the Beyond School Bells-supported “Think. Make. Create.” mobile maker space


Columbus, where a BSB mini grant provides opportunities for youth to engage in classic summer activities like fishing and gardening through partnerships with 4H Extension


Sidney, where our support allows youth to participate in a summer entrepreneurship program that includes pitching their ideas to local banks, developing their own t-shirts, and promoting their projects on local radio

Your support matters

We can’t provide this support in isolation. We are very grateful to our partners at The Sherwood Foundation, the William and Ruth Scott Family Foundation, the Claire M. Hubbard Foundation, the Robert B. Daugherty Foundation, and other key partners for their support of this important work. However, much more needs to be done. For every youth in one of Nebraska’s high-quality afterschool or summer programs, another child would like to participate but is unable to do so because of costs, lack of space, or scarcity of high-quality programs in their communities.

Please consider supporting this important work in your communities and our efforts to build the statewide systems that ensure all youth have the same opportunities to enjoy the Good Life – during the school year as well as the afterschool and summer months.

For more information, visit or contact Jeff Cole, Network Lead and Associate Vice President of School-Community Partnerships for Beyond School Bells, at

Nebraska Children's mission is to maximize the potential of Nebraska’s children, youth, and families through collaboration and community-centered impact.

Posted in Middle Childhood

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