GEORGETOWN — For the last 10 years, Georgetown County Out of School Time Committee has offered youth in the county educational and recreational enrichment while they are on summer vacation.
This summer's programs, though, are more vital than ever before, Ray Funnye said.
"This year, more than any other year, because of COVID-19, our young people certainly need some additional desk time just to catch up with what they have potentially missed in this year," said Funnye, director of The Village Group in Plantersville and South Carolina's ambassador for Afterschool Alliance, a national committee to expand support for afterschool programs.
Georgetown County's Out of School Time Committee this summer is offering six programs for youth of all ages and interests in the county. During these programs, students can engage in reading competitions, recreational activities such as bike riding and swimming, work with robotics and go on field trips to places like the county water treatment center.
Virtual students in Georgetown County School District saw a learning loss this school year, said David Hammel in March. Hammel is the district's executive director for accountability and assessment. Hybrid students averaged six points higher on their end-of-course assessments fall semester compared to their virtual counterparts, and 20 percent of high schoolers failed at least one fall semester course.
While applications for The Village Group's Plantersville Summer Academy program are already closed, students can still sign up for the five other programs, with most beginning in mid-June.
Not only do the programs allow parents to go to work knowing their students are being enriched during the summer, it shows students what career opportunities exist in their communities, Funnye said.
"At the end of the day, we want our young people to be able to be law-abiding citizens and be able to provide a better asset to our community so they are able to do wonderful things for themselves and their families," Funnye said.
As part of The Village Group's program, students from Gullah-Geechee communities can apply for the Culturally Sustaining STEM Summer Institute, a 5-day additional program at the end of June.
Forty fifth and sixth graders will work alongside teachers to develop projects that highlight historical and current STEM contributions of Gullah culture. Students can also apply for a half scholarship for the program, and projects will be shared with the public at the end.
In previous years, Funnye said the summer programs have seen up to 400 participants, and prices for attendance are able to stay around $40 a week due to help from places like the Frances P. Bunnell Foundation and the Waccamaw Community Foundation.
"I look at (these programs) as an investment into the future," Funnye said. "As opposed to later on, having money sunk into prisons and other places that really don't have any particular substance in the community. So let's invest now."
To learn more about the Georgetown County Out of School Time programs, visit youthcollabgtown.org.