WPF awards $4.6 million for free summer youth programs

From summer camps to summer jobs, Philadelphia officials say they will return to near pre-pandemic levels of fun activities for kids. This year’s programming comes with an additional $4.6 million from the William Penn Foundation for 22 free programs operating this summer and next.

The City announced a slew of activities to look forward to, including summer camps at rec centers, free swimming lessons at public pools, the popular PlayStreets program that will include free meals, and reading and literacy programs run by the Free Library of Philadelphia. Parents and kids can access information about all of these and more at a new searchable online portal called PlayItSafePHL.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney says he himself won’t be jumping into any pools this year, but says all the summer programs should help keep kids learning while also having fun.

“These types of activities are lifelines for our kids,” Kenney said. “And we believe keeping children and youth engaged in dynamic summer experiences will help keep them safe and reduce community violence.”

The popular PlayStreets will return. The program shuts off traffic during the day to convert blocks into safe places for kids to play. Philadelphia’s Department of Parks and Recreation will serve free meals to hundreds of thousands of youth and are looking to hire and train 400 new lifeguards.

William Penn Foundation’s program director Elliot Weinbaum says play helps kids learn and avoid the so-called “summer slide,” in which academic and social skills gained during the school year are lost during the summer break.

“We know that time spent outside the classroom is important to children’s development, it’s a time for them to learn in different ways,” said Weinbaum. “Not necessarily in a traditional classroom, but still build their reading, their math, their science skills either as catch-up from the past school year or as preparation for the coming school year.”