The cinematic portrayal of summer vacation is pretty on point for most kids — when the final bell rings at CMS schools this Friday, there will be yelling and laughter, talk of pool parties and sleeping in. “School’s Out for the Summer” will get its annual overplay on Spotify, and kids get to be kids.
Except for those who don’t.
The Summer Gap, or Summer Swoon, or Summer Slide — depending on where you live and who you read — is a real thing, and most of us are fortunate enough not to think much about it. Ignorance is bliss, as they say, and count me as someone who spent a couple decades among the ignorant. You see, summer is expensive. Whereas public school levels some things in our communities (especially in a town like Davidson where the schools are so great), and allows parents with varying levels of income to provide opportunities for their children, the summer halts that progress in its tracks.
There’s no public school camp. There are no free childcare centers, no free community facilities to keep your kids busy AND safe during workdays. For most of us, while school stops, work does not. Most jobs don’t account for parents who suddenly have children that need chaperones for three months. Summit certainly doesn’t.
Five years ago, I collaborated with brother Tim (a common character in these stories) over breakfast at Toast on how Summit, as a business that benefits from the support of this community as much as anyone, can give back. And between servings of pancakes we scratched out Team Summit Foundation on a white napkin, one that I wish I had as a keepsake to this day. Our beginnings were modest, raising some $6,000 mostly through running races to help pay for Davidson kids to attend summer camps. Because providing a week of camp for a child also means providing a week of peace and security for that child’s guardian. No more wondering about where they are, no more choosing between a paycheck and parenting. This week, TSF will write a check for $25,000, paying for 170 weeks of camps. It’s significant, and it’s not nearly enough.
One of my favorite stories to read at bedtime with my daughter, Bay, who is wise beyond her years and probably wiser than her father, is the children’s story, “Is There Really a Human Race.” For those who don’t know the story, it is a first-person account from a child who literally interprets the term, human race, and asks dozens of questions about its meaning. It begins:
Is there really a human race?
Is it going on now all over the place?
When did it start?
Who said, “Ready, Set, Go”?
Did it start on my birthday?
I really must know.
On a day-to-day basis, I am not actively confronted with worry about how my kids will spend their days during the summer break, like so many parents are. I have decisions to make when school ends and summer begins, but it’s not “can my child afford to go to camp with his or her peers?” It’s not “is it OK to leave my kids home during the day while I work, because we also need to eat.” My decisions, and I know I share this with many of you, are more about which camp, and how that aligns with vacation schedules.
This children’s book continues:
Do some of us win? Do some of us lose?
Is winning or losing something I choose?
Why am I racing? What am I winning?
Does all of my running keep the world spinning?
Is it a sprint? A dash to the end?
Am I aware of the time that I spend?
And why do I do it, this zillion-yard dash?
If we don’t help each other; we’re all going to… CRASH
How aware are we of the time that we spend? For years, for decades, I certainly wasn’t. There‘s an inequality in Davidson – my daughter’s classmates 9 months of the year cannot afford to be her campmates for the other 3. And because of that, by the time they’re in 5th grade, those same classmates will be as many as three years behind in school because of this summer gap. And this gap isn’t going away — in fact, it may be getting larger. There are more single-parent families, more dual-working parent families, who need support and structure and safety for their kids between June and August.
The book concludes:
Shouldn’t it be that you just try your best?
And that’s more important than beating the rest?
Shouldn’t it be looking back at the end
that you judge your own race by the help that you lend?
So, take what’s inside you and make big, bold choices.
And for those who can’t speak for themselves, use bold voices.
I am writing this story, using my voice to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. I am fortunate, I am privileged, to have a bold voice. I have this platform. And I want to use it to share this message of what Team Summit Foundation is doing. Of the importance of what TSF is doing. Of a divide that’s so wide, and yet practically easy to close. Maybe not in the world — but in our world. We cannot change the world, but we can change OUR world.
And how fortuitous, and fitting, it is that it was my daughter whose bedtime story choice helps remind me of this. For those of you with children, go home and read this story with them. It’s cute, the drawings are fun, and the message is so relevant. If you care to get involved, we’re having a great event on June 15 — and for those who can’t make it, please let me know if you want to help in some other way. The more we all attend to this need, the better off our communities are.
Let’s make it equitable for all kids in Davidson to Find Their Summit.