March 29, 2017

Princeton-Blairstown Center Provides Opportunities To Young People From Low-Income Communities

Letter to the Editor:

Over the past few weeks, I enjoyed seeing all the ads from the day and residential camp programs that help young people develop a vast array of skills that include cooking, skateboarding, gardening, traditional sports, STEM skills, swimming, acting, writing, directing, coding, and more. I wish I were young again and able to take advantage of these opportunities.

Unfortunately, there are children from low-income communities who have their whole lives ahead of them but who have fewer opportunities to participate in programs like these. Research points to the substantial gulf in spending on children’s enrichment and extracurricular activities, depending on economic strata. Those with higher disposable incomes are investing more heavily to enhance their childrens’ experiences and education, while other children must make do with far less. Research also shows that low-income students experience more summer learning loss than their higher income peers, partly because they are less likely to participate in summer learning programs.

According to the Partnership for 21st Century Learning, which comprises Fortune 500 business leaders and progressive educators, the “3Rs” educators focused on for the past 150 years have been joined if not overtaken in importance by “soft skills” like communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical-thinking. These skills are also vitally important for success in the new world of work. We should welcome, encourage, and support those summer programs that teach these skills.

For the past 25 years, I have been deeply involved with the Princeton-Blairstown Center, an organization that was founded 109 years ago by Princeton University undergraduates. The Center provides high-quality summer experiences free of charge to young people from low-income communities. During the upcoming summer, we will provide, for example, 200 young people from Trenton with enriching and educational experiences that are usually reserved for their more affluent peers against whom they will be competing for jobs. I urge everyone in our community to support evidenced-based programs like ours. Programs that teach critical social-emotional skills like communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration and which help to reduce learning losses over the summer. Our kids’ futures depend on it. Come to think of it, so do ours.

Mark L. Antin, Esq.

Adams Drive, Former Board Chair 

and Current Trustee, Princeton-Blairstown Center