Demario Davis, linebacker for the Cleveland Browns and founder of the Devoted Dreamers Academy is using the off season to help reduce summer learning loss near his hometown in Jackson, Mississippi. Research shows that by the fifth grade, low-income students generally fall 2.5-3 years behind middle class students and “summer slide” is the guilty culprit.
Summer slide is the tendency for students, especially those from low-income families, to lose some of the achievement gains they made during the previous school year. To help reduce summer learning loss, Demario has teamed up with the United Way of the Capital Area-funded organization Mission First to augment their summer learning program with curriculum focused on improving academics, physical fitness and character development.
The program operates for seven Fridays in the summer for approximately 60 young people. Each day begins with a motivational welcome and introduction to the character focus of the day from Demario. Over the course of the summer, he speaks from his own experience on the importance of teamwork, courage, fairness, commitment, excellence, integrity and leadership.
The daily curriculum includes hands-on, fun and sports-oriented reading, math and science activities. Participants are separated by grade to participate in discussions and activities based on the Jackson Public Schools summer required reading book program. Each week, participants read assigned chapters, complete exercises and participate in group discussions.
At the end of the day, the groups come together for final thoughts and to calculate group and individual points for the incentive program. Additional age-appropriate, high-interest books are made available for participants to take home to read during the week. Finally, each participant receives a Summer Bridge workbook for their grade to complete during the week.
Here’s what a few of last year’s participants shared about the program:
• “I enjoyed playing games and learning new things and meeting new people. It was good to read more and more each day.”
• “I got a lot of things out of this camp. It taught me how to be a leader and read more. I also learned how to do UNRAAVEL [a reading strategy] better.”
• “I learned how to show courage. I learned how to be brave and stand out from the crowd. I learned how to do the right thing when nobody is watching and show integrity and leadership.”