Gear Up, Summer Fun Needs Your Help

The following editorial was originally published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Sunday, May 5th as part of the “Raise Your Hand” column in the Insight section.

By Rodahlyn Arcangel, Alan He, and Jessica Cristina Valdez, McKinley High School, c/o 2024

The joy of summer is more than just a break from the routine; it’s a season filled with excitement as keiki run around with radiant smiles, ready for Summer Fun, a popular day camp hosted by the City and County of Honolulu. However, these smiles have dimmed as the city grapples with challenges in recruiting camp leaders in recent years. The program is in dire need of additional staff members to continue being the destination for an unforgettable summer experience for keiki.

Summer Fun caters to children aged 6 to 13, offering a day packed with activities planned by dedicated staff members. With its low registration costs and fees, the program is one of the few high-quality and affordable summer childcare options available for families of all income levels.

While the demand for the program on every level has increased, recruiting enough employees to meet the growing demand has become increasingly difficult. According to Nate Serota, a city spokesperson, about 10,000 children are expected to enroll this year. However, the program requires a minimum of 500 staff members to accommodate the demand and keep the program participants safe and engaged in positive activities. Without enough staff, more keiki will be turned away and miss out on the opportunity to experience the program.

Compared to previous decades, there has been a decline in teen summer employment, impacting youth programs like Summer Fun that rely on temporary staff. Several contributing factors may include teens finding their summers filled with other circumstances. For instance, more schools now have later end dates or earlier start dates, which leaves less time for a summer job. Additionally, an increasing number of teens and college students are prioritizing their graduation requirements by engaging in volunteer work or doing unpaid internships. As a result, fewer of them are taking an interest in working for programs like Summer Fun.

The shortage of summer aids limits children’s opportunities to unplug from the digital world and engage in face-to-face interactions with friends. It will also impede their ability to develop vital social skills and engage with their peers in a way that is not possible online.

Programs like Summer Fun are more important now than ever in light of the COVID pandemic, during which in-person opportunities for children were severely limited. The diverse programming that Summer Fun offers can aid in rebuilding children’s physical endurance and strength lost during extended periods at home. Additionally, it provides opportunities for socialization and developing social cues — skills that were strained during the pandemic when children primarily interacted through screens.

The experience benefits both the keiki who participate in the program and the leaders themselves. Not only will staff members have fun, but they will also gain valuable transferable skills such as time management, leadership experience, conflict resolution, and adaptability. Working as a staff member for Summer Fun is also a great way to expand social networks. For those seeking a fulfilling summer experience, working as a Summer Fun leader could be a perfect fit.

Our keiki represent the future of our communities, and we must continue to create opportunities for them to stay engaged during the summer months and to develop the skills necessary for their long-term growth. Joining the Summer Fun team is one way to make a lasting impact on the lives of keiki, while also building your own social network, developing marketable leadership skills and fostering meaningful connections. Now is the perfect time to begin planning for summer.

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