Summer Learning Programs
YMCA Expanded Learning Programs

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools across the San Diego region had to abruptly adapt to the reality of distance online learning. Kids’ after school interests and social activities, such as arts, sports or music, were also on hold while teachers, parents and caregivers tried to find effective solutions to accommodate their students' social and academic needs. 

In an effort to re-engage students this past summer, YMCA of San Diego County’s Expanded Learning Programs had the opportunity to partner with the Escondido Union School District and collaborate with Monart School of Art for a five-week summer learning program funded by the Girard Foundation. The YMCA and Monart worked with four Escondido elementary schools to provide academic support and enrichment activities for students infused with creative youth development.

Bridging Art Education with Youth Development

The YMCA Expanded Learning Programs understand the importance of creative youth development in its programming. After a long year of hybrid and online distance learning, YMCA and Monart wanted to offer students a creative outlet to increase their sense of community, boost peer support and creative thinking. According to The Rise of Creative Youth Development peer-review journal article by Denise Montgomery, creative youth development (CYD) programs are based on a model of arts education that combines arts instruction with life skills development, such as leadership, teamwork, communication, respect for diversity and positive self-image. 

Throughout the years, the core belief of the CYD programs has never changed: young people should be granted the opportunity to achieve and grow artistically and personally through creative expression and skill building. 


The Perfect Recipe for a Summer Learning Program 

Kicking off in June of 2021, the summer program partnership welcomed children back into the classroom after a year of hybrid learning and limited social interaction. Students would spend the morning receiving STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) instruction followed by an afternoon of enrichment activities led by the YMCA and Monart School of Art. 

YMCA of San Diego County conducted a curriculum based on a YMCA partner, After School Unlimited, called “Think, Feel and Read!,” which was a fun way for students to improve their reading skills as one of many ongoing activities over the course of the five weeks. Students read books that highlighted various social and emotional learning lessons such as responsible decision-making and relationship building. YMCA staff prepared strategic questions aimed to focus on the intended lesson of each book and engage the students in discussions before and after each reading. 

The YMCA also worked with the Monart School of Art to provide an engaging art curriculum. Each group of students were guided virtually  through step-by-step drawing sessions by a Monart art teacher while YMCA staff interacted with students. The students were very engaged with these lessons that allowed them to express their creativity. When the art lessons were over, students walked away proud of their works of art.

This partnership between YMCA of San Diego County Expanded Learning Programs, Escondido Union School District and the Monart School of Art set a great example for creative summer learning programs because it:

  • Displayed the importance of offering students a well-rounded education based in social and emotional learning
  • Allowed students to make up for some of the interrupted learning they experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic 
  • Offered students an opportunity to express their creativity through the creative youth development programming 
  • Taught students valuable lessons and relationship building skills to help them grow and flourish for years to come



YMCA of San Diego County’s Expanded Learning Programs are designed collaboratively with district partners to provide students with a safe and supportive environment, and academic and enrichment opportunities beyond the school day during the hours most parents or guardians are working.  To learn more about the YMCA of San Diego County’s Expanded Learning Programs and how they create a supportive environment for students, check out this blog post.