Funder collaborations are nothing new, but it takes a truly special program to capture the attention of a city’s biggest foundations, corporate philanthropies, and individual donors. Launched in 2010, My Summer in the City is a nonprofit initiative in Boston that organizes quality summer programs and activities for Boston’s kids and families throughout the summer months. The Boston Foundation initially developed the initiative, and the Barr Foundation, the Yawkey Foundations, and corporate and individual donors have jumped on board since that time.
So what makes My Summer in the City stand out among the other youth and community causes in the city?
My Summer in the City is a broad initiative that supports and coordinates nearly 30 organizations providing parks and recreation activities throughout the city. This year’s focus has been on extending evening and weekend hours at program sites. This seems to be a common theme for summer 2014 in cities trying to curb violence and gang activity around the country.
The Boston Foundation just kicked in another $485,000 to support summer programs through this initiative. This money is dedicated to supporting summer jobs for youth, especially those who are court-involved and/or have criminal offender record information in their backgrounds. The goal is to get these teens working at the local parks and recreation facilities during the evening and weekend hours, when they might otherwise be causing trouble on the streets.
TBF’s funding for this program dipped a little this year, from over $600,000 in summer 2013. However, TBF doesn’t put its entire summer program funding budget into one basket. The foundation awarded a $50,000 grant to Roxbury Latin School, which founded i2 Camp, a summer program designed to broaden interest in STEM education that targets middle school students at six Boston public schools. TBF also gave $100,000 to Boston Opportunity Agenda’s Summer Learning Project, $50,000 to the Summer Fund, and $50,000 to Camp Harborview. All of these programs serve disadvantaged and inner-city youth through academics, sports, and leadership development.
With kids out of the classroom and violent crime rates on the rise, summertime is perhaps the most important time for urban grantmaking. Throughout America’s major metropolitan areas, funders are focused on outdoor parks, after-hours programming, and employment for at-risk youth. This is the best season when athletic tournaments, cookouts, movie nights, and sports clinics are top priorities. As the new school year creeps in around the corner, will Boston’s biggest funders shift their parks and recreation focus directly to in-classroom education initiatives?