Philadelphia bolsters city-sponsored youth programs to keep kids engaged and off the streets this summer

Leaders hope to avoid the “summer slide” with more than 30,000 slots available for youth entertainment and education.

Cherelle Parker

Mayor Parker recently announced summer employment programs. Above, Parker delivered her first budget address to council at City Hall on March 14, 2024. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

From Philly and the Pa. suburbs to South Jersey and Delaware, what would you like WHYY News to cover? Let us know!

The City of Philadelphia is previewing summer programs, as more than 30,000 slots are available for youth entertainment and education.

Council President Kenyatta Johnson pushed for the early unveiling of summer programs to allow more time for parents to sign their kids up.

“My nana taught me as a child an idle mind is the devil’s workshop,” he said.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Most of the slots are reserved for summer school. Philadelphia Schools Superintendent Dr. Tony Watlington said the district is prepared to enroll 23,000 students in learning activities that will be held in air-conditioned city schools. Students will do language arts in the morning and summer camp–style activities in the afternoon, he said.

“If we are going to continue to accelerate academic outcomes so all of our people graduate prepared to participate in the world’s largest economy,” Watlington said, “we’ve got to address the summer slide.”

The summer slide refers to young students losing learning momentum during an extended break.

A six-week summer camp program with full-day enrichment activities will also be offered for elementary, middle and high school students. Beginning June 24, the program is free and includes meals and field trips. You can sign up for that here.

Vanessa Garrett Harley, deputy managing director of the Department of Children and Families,   said the city is also looking to hire thousands of young people for paid jobs as part of the city’s work-based learning experience program, Career Connected Learning PHL (C2L-PHL).

“We’ve got 8,000 [job] slots this summer that we want to fill for our youth, and for the first time, 2,000 of those slots will carry into the school year,” she said.

C2L-PHL applications are available here.

A Play Street program will also assist the city in getting meals to students who usually receive nutrition through the city schools’ free lunch program. Harley said they are actively recruiting volunteers for the effort.

The Free Library is also offering a summer full of learning and reading activities, according to CEO Kelly Richards. Those offerings can be found here and include the Summer of Wonder, which encourages reading and learning during the summer months.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Another program, “Don’t Fall Down in the Hood,” will be held for children ages 12-18, Monday through Thursday.

The Department of Human Services will have programs at multiple locations, including Intensive Prevention services available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and evening programs at Community Resource Centers.

The police department will offer its Explorer Cadet program, which provides law enforcement training and experience through classroom instruction and hands-on training for those seeking a career in law enforcement.

The PAL centers will run extended hours during summer to offer youth a safe alternative this summer.

There will be a resource fair on Saturday, April 27 at the Convention Center to help parents sign up for the summer activities.

The city is also planning to open 60 pools if it can recruit 400 lifeguards. Over 100 spray grounds will also be available to give children a creative outlet for the hot days ahead.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal