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Louisville Leaders Seeks to Keep Kids Engaged Through Summer Programs

Young people in Louisville are being encouraged to participate in an array of summer activities announced Tuesday by Metro Government officials.   Some of the programs would be funded through Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s proposed budget, which allots $2.2 million for youth development.The activities are aimed to engage and educate, while sparking interests in the young people they may not have known existed, said Sadiqa Reynolds, the city’s chief of community-building.“Sometimes we have to push them to places they may not have known they wanted to go,” she said.Reynolds said she “cannot explain” how excited she was to learn about the allocation included in the proposed budget that is specifically targeted toward young people and teenagers in the community.She said a bulk of new programs this summer will be focusing on engaging teenagers that have often been overlooked when community center programs are developed.“What we hear from young people is that there isn’t enough for teens,” she said.  “We have to focus on all kids.”Six community centers, California, Baxter, Newburg, Park Hill, Portland and Southwick will be offering teen-specific programs, according to metro government officials.Budget funding will also provide for community center improvements, including longer hours, increased staffing and updated technology.  Some, including the California Community Center, will also be eligible for updates to computer technology and wifi services.Reynolds said the increased staffing will be used to recruit young people that may not regularly visit the community centers, but the effort to get kids in the door shouldn’t stop there.“We need the community, we need the parents to engage,” she said.Mayor Fischer said he hopes community engagement and investment will increase once people see the successful outcomes prompted by the summer programs.“These are logical places to invest, we are investing in our children, in our future, and we’ve got to have outcomes that show the investment is worthwhile at the same time,” he said.Reynolds said the investment must be long term.“We’ve got to keep it up, we cannot do it this year, but next year say, ‘We don’t have the money,’” she said.  “We’ve got to  keep it going, this is so important.”Many summer camps and programs are tailored to kids’ age and interests, such as adventure, reading, science and animals.A new addition to the summer youth programs is an initiative being launched in early June that will give students in Louisville unprecedented access to the city’s cultural attractions.Called the "Cultural Pass," the program will give elementary, middle, high school and college students free access to places like Yew Dell Gardens, the Kentucky Derby Museum or the Filson Historical Society.The concept for the Cultural Pass sprang from one of nearly 80,000 ideas submitted to Vision Louisville, said Jeff O’Brien, project manager for Vision Louisville.“The dream is if you are born in Louisville then you can have access to all day institutions for free,” he said.  “The thought process being that more exposure to art and culture helps your learning, helps you become a lifelong learner and it helps you in school.”The passes are free and can be picked up at any branch of the Louisville Free Public Library or Metro Parks Community Center beginning June 9.Mayor Fischer said the pass will act as the “proverbial whack on the head” to motivate young people to “do something different.”“You never know what is going to stimulate a young person’s mind,” he said.For a complete listing of summer camps and programs, click here.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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