The collaboration between the 100 Black Men of Indianapolis and IPS has proven to be a meaningful change in the fight against the summer slide. The success of the Summer Academy inspired other communities to implement similar programs, ensuring that more students had access to quality summer learning experiences.
For Damon Lee, an Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) special education teacher, summer school is the perfect time for youngsters to get ahead in their academics.
The 1996 graduate of Northwest High Schools (now an IPS middle school) is part of the staff working the 100 Black Men of Indianapolis Summer Academy. 100 Black Men is a nonprofit organization that has spent the past 30 years combating the “summer learning slide” that exists when children are not engaged in learning activities.
This year’s academy was at IPS School 83 Floro Torrence.
As an IPS teacher, Lee has witnessed how students return to classes in the fall with a decline in academic skills.
“This is simply an amazing program because it’s very structured and the kids and their parents have bought into it,” said Lee, who has been on the staff at George Washington High School for the last 12 years. “The kids come in here ready to do the work. The students know that if they get the academic part right, the rest of the day is amazing. The culture is already built, so they just must do the work.”
The Summer Academy offers a wide range of academic and extracurricular activities designed to foster learning and personal growth. Each day, students attended dynamic classes taught by passionate educators who brought subjects to life through interactive lessons. These classes focused on core subjects such as math, reading, and science, while also integrating arts, music, and sports to create a holistic learning environment.
“There is no time for daydreaming here,” Lee said. “We start the day off with motivational speech and light calisthenics, and that helps get the brain going. And then just go hard and fast for the rest of the day.”
In addition to academic enrichment, the Summer Academy also focused on building life skills and character development. Workshops on leadership, communication, and problem-solving empowered students to become confident and well-rounded individuals.
“I try to do something in the summer to improve my skills and help the community,” said Lee, who received his bachelor’s degree from Western Kentucky and a master’s from Marian University. “With all the crime going on in Indy, it is important for scholars can have a safe space in the summer. One of my passions is to help young people grow, learn, and stay safe.”
To ensure the program’s success, the 100 Black Men organization partnered with IPS to identify students who would benefit most from the Summer Academy. Scholarships were provided to make the program accessible to all students, regardless of their financial background.
Lee points out that ss the summer progressed, the impact of the Summer Academy became evident. Students displayed a renewed enthusiasm for learning, and their confidence soared. The once-dreaded summer slide was replaced by academic growth and personal development.
“It’s all about relationship building,” said Lee, who coaches girls’ basketball at George Washington High School. “It is extremely important to build relationships in the classroom. Kids won’t learn from a teacher they don’t like.”