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June 14, 2021
United Way of Mass. Bay Gets $10M for Youngest Learners
United Way Mass. Bay

May 9, 2021 — The United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, based in Boston, last week announced it has been awarded $10 million in state funds to launch a summer program focusing on young children who are entering school for the first time or who have had little in-person learning experience due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley said funds for the Summer Step Up program will support technical assistance and in-kind support for the expansion or enhancement of existing summer programming focused on addressing the needs of the youngest learners in approximately 50 communities and school districts.

“The Baker-Polito Administration and the Department of Early Education and Care recognize that remote learning has brought in a whole new set of challenges for children and families, particularly those in communities that were disproportionately hit by COVID-19," said Bob Giannino, United Way president and chief executive officer. “Now, more than ever, young children need academic, social and emotional support over the summer months to engage in learning and prepare for a full return to classroom settings.

“We hope this will build an infrastructure for innovative community collaborations that began during COVID and improve coordination across support services for young children and families as communities recover.”

“By partnering with United Way and community organizations, more children throughout the Commonwealth will be offered the opportunity to make up for lost time prior to starting school in the fall—maximizing the critical summer months to accelerate learning,” said Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy of the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care.

Goals of the Summer Step Up program include creating, extending, or enhancing in-person summer experiences in collaboration with community partners for young children who have had limited access to in-school experiences due to COVID-19 pandemic.

School districts will receive support from local and national experts to provide tailored materials that support high-quality in-person learning experiences that are aligned to school district goals and provide resources to community partners to support school entry goals.

The program will focus on identifying and engaging Massachusetts families with young children in the early grades that were eligible to enroll in Massachusetts public schools in the 2020-2021 school year, but either opted out of school district services, withdrew throughout the year, or had limited engagement with remote offerings provided by the public schools.

Technical assistance providers will develop materials that will be used to create or enhance high-quality summer learning experiences for young learners, provide professional development and technical assistance to community teams, and develop or support data collection and tools to inform ongoing quality improvement efforts and assess child progress.

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