Put Away Your Phones and Enjoy Your Summer Vacation

Yours truly on summer vacation at the Catskill Game Farm, one of many fond memories of summers from long ago.

I was driving down the street and when I stopped at the stop sign, three young kids (probably teenagers) were sitting at the curb. It brought back memories of when my friends and I would pass the summer days sitting on a curb, or on a stoop, talking.

We’d talk, and eventually argue, about almost anything. Baseball. Movies. Girls. We’d talk and we’d laugh and I have wonderful memories of those summer days.

Except these kids weren’t talking. They were on their phones, probably texting with other friends, or watching videos. They were together, in-person, but they seemed so alone. They looked glum and miserable. That’s no way to spend your summer vacation.

Summer Vacation. What a remarkable pair of words when you’re a kid. By the time you’re 11 or 12 it feels like you’ve been going to school for years and the words summer vacation were enough to get you excited.

Summer was when you got to stay out a little later, playing wiffle ball in the street or tag. It was when you lost track of the weekdays, and you felt like you had a million days before your next school day. It was a big, giant taste of freedom.

We didn’t have a lot of money, but we didn’t need it. I remember going into Reap’s Candy, on 95th and Jamaica, and buying a small foam glider for 5 cents, it was shaped like a WW2 fighter.

We played with and battered that little plane around for days. We climbed the steps leading to the J and set it sail from up there, and watched it glide almost all the way to 96th Street.

That was the best nickel I ever spent.

I remember the excitement of packing the car and driving to the Catskills for a few days, the thrill of getting out, of going away.

It was fun seeing all the little differences in other places; the different newspapers; the strange new supermarkets and products. And all the television stations were on different channels.

We visited the local attractions, the Catskill Game Farm, Carson City, etc. And we got one of those bumper stickers that said “This Car Climbed Hunter Mountain!”

Then it was back home and back to the wiffle ball and chasing each other around the playground, and running through the sprinklers. We used to run through Forest Park playing Army, small sticks standing in for rifles and pistols

And some days, when it was really too hot to run around, you just sat with your friends and debated who would win in a motorcycle race, The Fonz or Evel Knievel. (The answer is The Fonz, because Knievel kept crashing).

It was such a wonderful time of our lives, a break from the routine and a chance to enjoy doing little or next to nothing.

And if you could go back and enjoy just one more summer vacation like that, you would cherish and savor each and every one of those summer days because you know that once you start working, it’s never the same.

It’s a subtle change in nomenclature, but everything changes when “Summer Vacation” becomes simply Summer. How would you explain that to your 12-year old self?

It’s like a working vacation. The weather is nice but you can’t enjoy it on weekdays too much because you have to get up early for work the next day.

You hope you can sit outside this weekend but only if it doesn’t rain. You don’t have the luxury of wasting your days off because you have so few of them. You’ve got a week off next month but you’ve already made plans to do work around the house.

You’ve got responsibilities. If you aren’t worrying about the bills you’re worrying about your health. Your body hurts and things don’t come as easy as they once did. It’s all part of being an adult.

If you’re not there yet, if you’re at the age where you still get Summer Vacation, brace yourselves, because things don’t get better from here. These are the best days of your lives.

So try to savor them, try to enjoy every day. Put down your phones, get out and enjoy your life. Laugh with your friends and run and jump and have a great time. Because before you can blink, it will all be over.

A Summer of Renewal for our Students

This year has demanded that all New York City families and students do so many things differently. They’ve had to think differently, learn differently, and connect differently with teachers, peers, and the whole school community.
At the Department of Education, we know we also have to think differently as we look towards the summer. For the first time ever, we are inviting all students to join us for a free, fun-filled, enriching summer program: Summer Rising.
This year, we will serve any student in grades K-12 in July and August who wants to participate, and I am excited to be partnered with the Department of Youth & Community Development to reimagine what summer can be.
Our children’s days will be filled with innovative academic support, social-emotional learning, and engaging enrichment activities. These programs will be designed by school teams in partnership with local community-based organizations and offered in hundreds of sites across all five boroughs.
After all the trauma and disruptions caused by the pandemic over the past 15 months, our children need a chance to reboot their education in fun and supportive ways as we approach the full reopening of our schools in September.
It is time to begin regaining what the pandemic took away. Summer Rising is an opportunity to do just that, creating spaces for students to learn, grow, play, and explore the city around them – from field trips to Central Park and museums to dance and art classes.
Summer Rising will also provide an enormous relief to families by keeping children safe, supported, and productive this summer.
After enduring months when so many of our students were isolated from their teachers and peers, the opportunity to rebuild those face-to-face relationships will do so much to support their healing process and prepare them for returning to school in the fall.
All K–8 students participating in programs will have access to academic classes and enrichment programming, including field trips, arts activities and outdoor recreation.
Students will also engage in daily community building and social emotional learning activities. We know some students with disabilities may require additional supports to participate in Summer Rising, and those supports will be provided as needed.
In addition, Summer Rising is a chance for high school students to complete courses in progress, make up credits to march towards graduation, and participate in academic acceleration opportunities.
They will also be able to engage in important work experience and internship opportunities, like the Summer Youth Employment Program.
As always, health and safety remain a top priority. Summer Rising will follow the rigorous health protocols that succeeded in keeping our schools among the safest places in the city this school year.
To support these efforts, parents will need to complete a testing consent form for their child so we can keep everyone healthy and safe,
Summer Rising will be the start of revitalizing the powerful joy of learning together as we head toward a strong reopening of our schools and warm homecoming for our students in the fall. I strongly urge the families of every child who can join us over the summer to sign up now.
To learn more about the options available for your child or to sign up, go to nyc.gov/summerrising. All programs are free, in-person, and have something to offer for everyone.

Meisha Porter is New York City Schools Chancellor.

Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing