Part 2: Teen Summer Break: Turning a Vacation into an Advocation.

Part 2 On Summer Learning Loss: Teen Summer Break: Turning a Vacation into an Advocation.

Successful high school students all have something in common: They turn time into an ally. And the smartest of those successful students (and their parents), plan how to take advantage of the long summer break from school; they know that an end to school does not mean an end of learning. Several important goals should be accomplished in the summers of the high school experience:

1) Starting in your freshman year of high school you should be building a personal essay, biography, a resume and portfolio that will strengthen your profile, preparation and presentation for your post high school college, college scholarships, and/or career choice plans. Even if you are working, you must turn the summer into a learning experience. If you have a summer position funded by the government, try to get assigned to a meaningful and responsible position, where you can learn. Many young folks who work for Summer Youth type programs are content to clean up parks or sweep streets; now there is nothing wrong with that type of work; but you should try to get into a position that you can actually place on a resume i.e. an aide in a senior citizen center, parks department, summer feeding program, day camp, an office aide, etc. Next be a model employee, no matter what you’re assigned to do (you never know who is watching you); be professional and polite; offer to do extra, go above and beyond the job description; stand out from other folks, come to work on time and every day, dress appropriately, finish a task, take pride in your work; the impression you make could be critical. You will need letters of recommendation for future employment, and a good referral could turn your next summer job into a summer/after school “staff” position. But most important do something where you are being forced to learn a skill or practice a talent you possess. Having worked many years with summer youth students; it was clear to me that in many cases young folks were having their first ‘formal” work experience; it was also clear that some were “briefed” by some adult prior to arriving to the job site. A good manager recognizes those “stand-out” individuals right away! Ask yourself: “How can I stand out, how can I distinguish myself in a positive way?” Let people remember your name for the best of reasons!

2) Summer jobs are great but paid or unpaid internships are better. An internship is a statement about you, it says that some (very busy) organization or institution; thinks you have so much talent, ability and promise, that they are willing to invest the people they actually pay to do things other than internships, to mentor you. A STEM internship is very highly sought and respected, as many of the people and places where they exist; are extremely busy and not particularly focused on mentoring folks who are not well versed in the theory of the work; but many STEM internships are out there for the asking! To be successful at acquiring a STEM internship I would suggest juniors and rising seniors, those who are very strong and interested in the STEM subject-topic area. It is also important to have a serious attitude as safety is a critical factor.

3) Sign up (contact the admissions office) for a scheduled college tour. Try to at least visit one local college a week, the catalogue and other published information is very important. I have even known colleges to give individual tours to a high school student and parent who took the time to contact the admissions office.

4) Start the college going (paying for) process in the 9th grade. Develop your college scholarship resource electronic file a good place to start is: … Stay away from commercial scholarship finding sites (.com’s) a waste of money and time; you can do everything they can do for free by doing the search yourself. Stick to college based, private foundations and governmental scholarship sites. This may not sound important now to a teenager, but huge financial tuition debt can seriously harm and/or delay your future professional plans. If you are either working or have access to a place, that has a license to access the Foundation Center’s website: Use it to research foundation grants, scholarships, internships, and study in the US, and abroad programs.

5) Come up with a summer reading plan (so much time or pages a day); this plan should have many of the books you read for enjoyment; but this list should also include some personal development and study guides/practices titles, a few such books are:

• The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens: Sean Covey
• The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens: Sean Covey
• The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens Personal Workbook: Sean Covey
• How to solve math word problems on standardized test : David S. Wayne
• SAT and ACT Grammar Workbook : George Ehrenhaft
• Invisible Man: Ralph Ellison
• Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry : Mildred Taylor
• The Autobiography of Malcolm X : Malcolm X
• A Choice of Weapons : Gordon Parks
• The Bluest Eye :Toni Morrison
• Dark Child : Camara Laye
• Jesse : Gary Soto
• Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass: Frederick Douglass

6) Start studying for the SAT/ACT early: Build and practice your vocabulary skills (mastering so many words a day); make and use index “flash” cards to master the most used (those that show up most frequently) on the ACT or SAT. Helpful source of words: Sesquipedalian SAT Edition: An Interactive Story to Learn Hundreds of SAT and ACT Vocabulary Words in Context: Joshua Gordon.

7) Strengthened your math skills: If you did not receive an A or 100 in your last math class use sites like Khan Academy ( to “restudy” those areas of weakness. Math concepts have a “nasty” way of reappearing (including showing up in other courses like physics or chemistry); also the concepts you don’t nail in a previous math class can come back to haunt you in a higher math class.

8) (I guess the statute of limitations have run out) But as a principal I have accommodated students who wanted to review the textbook for a class they were taking in the fall (they engaged in a sort of pro-active studying-tutoring!) I let them borrow the textbooks for the summer; you can also read text books at a local public library.

9) Come up with a cultural institution (I.e. museums, botanical gardens, etc.) visiting plan for your city. If a parent can go great, if not still go. Check to see if any free passes are being offered to visit cultural institutions in your area. Now many of these institutions will have a “suggested admission fee”; if you have it and want to give fine, if not, don’t worry about the possible side-eye look you will receive if you can’t pay, the fee is “suggested” or “recommended”, not required. Also many of these institutions that do charge, will have a “free day”; and most likely a lower student admission fee. Teenagers arriving alone could for some institutions be a cause for concern (except for the Public Library); fair or not, that is what it is. Always be respectful, don’t ‘horse play’, use low “inside voices”, don’t break any institution rules, have your student I.D., and only take one other teenager (who you know to have good sense) with you; and stay together at all times, including (if appropriate) the bathrooms! Don’t give an institution a reason to ask you to leave!

10) Try to develop at least one good hobby every summer; some will probably stick for a lifetime (for me it is stamp collecting). Find a way to explore and express a talent and creative desire you have (It was in my SYEP Pratt University experience where I developed a love for my photography hobby!)

11) If you are not working, or can afford not to work, or plan to work part-time; seek a volunteer position in a local government agency, hospital, lab, library, museum, art or cultural center, community based organization, an elected official (including working in the campaign of one running for office). If you can volunteer in an area of future career aspirations, all the better. Develop a 1 page letter expressing your desire to volunteer and learn this summer so as to enhance your college and scholarship applications profile (let someone review and edit the letter, like a teacher on vacation, sorry folks!:-) Don’t assume that “powerful” and “influential” people will automatically say no; in fact I know from working with many students on these letters; most people in positions of power admire this type of drive and attitude (if you don’t believe in you, then…), and even if they can’t specifically help you, they could make a referral, the worse that can happen is that they can say “no”…. And, young person, you will need to learn to deal with some “no’s” in your life.

12) Make this a safe, and not sorry summer! Anybody can follow the crowd; be and do something different each summer. Be a good different, and make a good difference (help a senior citizen in your neighborhood). Be and stay positive. Learn some new things. Learn somethings about yourself. But learn! Learn something that will make you a better person and a better student in the next school year. Go back to school better prepared and organized to do well. Use and control time, don’t let it use and control you. Create good and positive habits. Decide to return to school in the fall better organized, focused, disciplined and more determined. Steer clear of unsafe situations, and people who will bring trouble and problems into your life. True friends would never put you in a position to be mentally or physically harmed; or to distract you from your promised greatness. People who do that are not friends, they are obstacles and pitfalls (ACT/SAT words!) avoid them. You only have one life, and you are the #1 person responsible for how that life turns out. “Momma may have, Poppa may have”; but God bless the child that has the sense to live a life, in summer, and all seasons, that will allow them to fulfill their hopes, promise and dreams to the fullest.