Philly summer programs designed to offer safety, fun

Summer camp begins in Philadelphia
A girl plays in the spraygrounds at Ferko Playground.
Reuters file

Philadelphia hit 80 degrees Wednesday, so it’s not too early to think about summer, particularly for parents.

Registration has now opened or will soon for a litany of summer programs for children offered by the Department of Parks and Recreation, School District of Philadelphia, Free Library and other organizations.

City leaders hope the initiatives, from day camps to job programs, will help keep kids safe during the summer — which is typically when Philadelphia experiences a spike in shootings.

“We believe that keeping children and youth engaged in dynamic summer experiences will help keep them safe and reduce community violence,” said Vanessa Garrett Harley, who took over as deputy mayor for the city’s Office of Children and Families on Monday.

Harley, who previously worked in leadership roles in the Managing Director’s Office, told reporters Wednesday that there will be “a police presence in strategic areas in order to support this programming.”

Plans are still being finalized, but officers will be set up at some recreation centers and patrols will routinely check in on others, Deputy Police Commissioner Joel Dales said.

Amid an overall increase in shootings and homicides over the past several years, teenagers have been involved as victims and perpetrators.

Just over the past several weeks, 13-year-old Turay Thompson died after being shot in West Philadelphia; Juan Carlos Robles-Corona, 15, was gunned down in broad daylight near his school; and 15-year-old Sean Toomey was killed by gunmen outside his Wissinoming home.

Earlier this week, authorities arrested Gary Taylor, 17, in connection with the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Steve Green in Southwest Philadelphia.

Since the beginning of the year, 41 children under the age of 18 have been shot, including 10 who have been killed, according to the City Controller’s gun violence dashboard.

“Our kids need activities,” Managing Director Tumar Alexander said. “Our kids should not live in their houses in fear.”

Reuters file

As part of the summer programming effort, Parks and Rec aims to open 68 pools throughout the city, and officials announced a pay boost Wednesday for prospective lifeguards.

New recruits can now earn $16 an hour, up from $15.24, and guards with experience will be paid up to $18 an hour. Training and certification is free for applicants between the ages of 16 and 24. Go to phila.gov/lifeguards for information.

Harley said there are also more than 400 open pool maintenance positions, which pay $15 an hour.

An estimated 6,500 slots will be available for Parks and Rec camps, typically held at rec centers, playgrounds or parks across Philadelphia. The 110 neighborhood camps, which enroll 6-to-12 year olds, are set to start July 5.

In addition, more than 300 PlayStreets, blocks closed to traffic that offer kids fun activities and free meals, will open June 21.

Building on a program that began last year, the School District of Philadelphia will utilize 31 school buildings to offer a mix of academic and recreational activities.

School officials said last week that the initiative, which will run from June 27 through Aug. 5, will have the capacity for about 9,500 students.

For information, go to www.philasd.org/academics/summerprograms.

The city’s Out-of-School Time providers, which will be offering full-day programming focused on literacy and career exposure, plan to serve 5,800 kids during the summer months, Harley said.

For 12-to-24 year olds, the WorkReady summer jobs program, operated by the Philadelphia Youth Network, is preparing to provide 8,000 paid opportunities, with a mix of in-person and virtual work, from July to August.

Free Library of Philadelphia employees will be encouraging summer reading, and, in conjunction with the Franklin Institute, will be hosting Science in the Summer for 2nd-to-6th graders at 33 library branches.

Visit www.phila.gov/programs/playitsafephl for information.

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