When communities harness the power of summer learning, all children can grow and thrive, particularly the nation’s most vulnerable students. This is the critical conversation more than 500 education leaders will explore as part of the National Summer Learning Association’s (NSLA) annual Summer Changes Everything™ national conference, October 21-23, 2019 at the Omni Hotel, CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia. For registration details, visit www.summerlearning.org/national-conference.

“Our field is evolving rapidly to keep pace with the diverse needs of children across the country. We hope the learnings from this conference will build on the progress we’ve made toward leveraging summer as a time of great opportunity, innovation and collaboration in education. Summertime provides a real chance for all children to improve their health, academics, social emotional learning, and career skills,” said Aaron Philip Dworkin, CEO of NSLA.

An influential lineup of notable education and youth advocates will take center stage as featured speakers. Dr. Steve Perry, one of America’s most sought-after educators and CNN Education Contributor, will keynote the opening plenary on Tuesday, October 22, and NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo will share his humanitarian work to improve outcomes for children at the closing plenary on Wednesday, October 23. Christopher Helfrich, CEO of Stephen and Ayesha Curry’s Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation will be a panelist on the closing plenary with Dikembe Motumbo and Reggie Love, personal aide to former President Barack Obama. 

Other featured speakers include: Karl Alexander PhD, renowned summer learning researcher, sociologist and author; Elizabeth Fowlkes, Senior Vice President, Youth Development, Boys & Girls Clubs of America; Jason D. King, Senior Vice President, Clear Channel Outdoor; Milton Little, Jr., President of the United Way of Greater Atlanta; Dax-Devlon Ross, equity expert, journalist and author of Beat of a Different Drum; and Lorna Smith, CEO of Horizons National. 

As the foremost authority on summer learning quality practices, policy and research, NSLA’s national conference aims to elevate the essential role that summer and afterschool programs have in closing the achievement and opportunity gaps that often emerge at birth for millions of children. Bringing together stakeholders from across the country, NSLA aims to advance its 25-year summer learning movement to the forefront of education improvement efforts and to maximize the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  

ESSA includes provisions that help ensure success for students and schools while upholding critical protections for America’s disadvantaged and high-need students. The law offers new opportunities for states to build on partnerships and proven strategies such as summer learning and afterschool programs.

Additionally, a new summer report, to be presented at conference by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, lays out nine recommendations to address obstacles that disadvantaged children can face during the summer, including lack of access to quality programs, food insecurity, and exposure to unsafe and dangerous conditions, and to help all children develop positively and stay connected to resources.

“We know when students don’t read and learn over the summer months, they can lose academic ground – but we can see this as a challenge, or we can view it as an opportunity,” Georgia State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “Here in Georgia, we’ve made it a priority to reach all students over the summer months and ensure they have chances to read, learn, and grow. We’re looking forward to a conference that will spark new ideas and collaborations for those who share that same goal.”

A robust schedule of events and networking opportunities offer attendees innovative and scalable strategies to meet the academic and well-being needs of children during the critical summer months. Highlights include: 

  • A Town Hall on the state of summer learning and the release of a Greater Atlanta Summer Learning Community Landscape Report; 
  • Pre-Conference Training Institutes for Librarians, STEM (STEAM) providers and School Districts – a boot camp for shaping quality summer programs;
  • Screening of “Roadtrip Nation: Beating the Odds,” a documentary made possible with the support of the college readiness experts at ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning, featuring inspiring advice from former First Lady Michelle Obama and other leaders who overcame unbelievable obstacles to succeed to and through college; and
  • An awards ceremony honoring winners of the 2019 New York Life Foundation’s Excellence in Summer Learning Award and the inaugural Lands’ End Love Learning Award. 

With the right opportunities, trained staff and sufficient community funding, summer can be a time for all children – regardless of ZIP code – to enjoy new experiences, learn in different, hands-on ways and prepare for success in the school year ahead. At the policy, level attendees will receive the most current updates on state and federal legislation related to summer learning, such as the Summer Meals and Learning Act. This recent legislation proposes creating a federal grant program to keep the libraries of schools that offer free summer meals open

“Promoting education and supporting children is a social responsibility we take very seriously,” said Jack Jessen, regional president of Clear Channel Outdoor Northeast and corporate co-chair. “We are proud to serve as the corporate chair of this conference and partner with the National Summer Learning Association and help raise awareness on the potential of summers to improve outcomes for all the children who live in our communities.” 

NSLA’s Summer Changes Everything™ is co-hosted by the Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network and United Way of Greater Atlanta. The conference is supported, in part, by the following partners: ACT, Aflac, Clear Channel Outdoor, Community Foundation of Atlanta, Demco, Georgia Public Broadcasting, InPlay, Jr. NBA, Kids Read Now, New York Life Foundation, Random House, The Wallace Foundation, and Youth Today.