Going Back to (Summer) School

I spent this past week preparing for the upcoming Migrant Ed Summer School program. This meant lots of decorating (making the classroom ocean themed) and brainstorming potential lessons and subjects for the incoming 7th graders. After talking to some of the teachers and longtime Migrant Ed staff members I learned a little bit more about summer school. One thing that came as a surprise to me was that all of the kids attending summer school – which is K-12 – are there voluntarily. Rather than being forced by parents, the kids are driven by their desire to learn and build upon their education. I know that when I was in middle-school and high-school I would never have given up my summer vacation to do more schoolwork.

What’s even more impressive is that there has been an increase in the number of students attending summer school over the past few years. But funding for summer school, and education in PA in general, has been decreasing. The growing size of the student body coupled with the cutbacks makes it difficult to provide necessary or previously offered services. For example, this year there will be fewer field trips, fewer teachers working at the summer school, and fewer days in which summer school will be in session. There are other issues like transportation costs. Students travel from all over Adams county with some students taking an hour long commute just to get to summer school.

Though the the number of students attending summer school is growing, there are some who are reluctant, or even fully against participating in summer school. An interesting reason I heard for families not wanting to participate in summer school was that some believe the Migrant Ed Summer School is very Mexican focused. This is true to a certain extent. The overwhelming majority of students are Mexican and there are events such as a lesson on Mexican heritage. This concern is held by both Mexican families and non-Mexican families. Initially, I wasn’t sure why Mexican families would be opposed to Migrant Ed embracing Mexican heritage. I was told that some families are embarrassed by their heritage and others simply don’t see why summer school needs to be so Mexican oriented. I liken this last point to a sort of “I don’t see color” idea – where an emphasis is placed on being the same and the differences between being American and Mexican are not acknowledged. Whether this kind of argument is right or wrong, it seems like it would be detrimental to prevent someone from going to school no matter what the reason. 

Nate Kumar ’17