August 20, 2020 Category: Stories

The Fresh Air Fund’s Summer 2020 Programs: Expanding Perspectives, Building Relationships and Learning Life Skills

“Our children and families have been disproportionately impacted and tragically affected by the pandemic.  This summer, we remain steadfast in our commitment to provide fun and enriching experiences,” said Fresh Air Fund Executive Director Fatima Shama. “When we ask our children to describe Fresh Air, they say it’s fun, awesome and amazing. Our new programs are focused on giving our children that same feeling of ‘fun, awesome and amazing’ experiences. Our New York City children deserve to make memories, try new things, see new places and make new friends this summer….now more than ever.” 

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with New York City as the epicenter of the crisis, The Fund made the heartbreaking decision to cancel its traditional summer programs and created new free summer programs providing alternatives for children to keep the magic of summer alive: Fresh Air Everywhere, Fresh Air Teen Programs and Youth Employment, Fresh Air Summer Spaces and Fresh Air Family Wellness. All programs are free of charge to the families and children we serve. 

Fresh Air Everywhere 

Starting in March, The Fund’s year-round programs successfully adapted to virtual models – from tutoring to our College Connections Program, students continued to receive the support and guidance they needed. The ongoing support was especially critical at a time when so many other aspects of their lives were unpredictable. Our team learned a lot about how to facilitate virtual programming which was applied to planning our virtual camp, Fresh Air Everywhere.  

Fresh Air Everywhere is an opportunity for NYC children to have a safe and fun virtual experience to explore the world and open up new horizons. Children, ages seven to 13, have the opportunity to participate in camps with themes including Nature, Time Travel and Travel. Activities engage children and encourage their curiosity through arts, movement, literacy and STEM. Each child is sent an activity box with arts and crafts materials, books and more. There are six one-week sessions. 

As part of Fresh Air Everywhere’s Nature Camp, children form new connections and make new friends.

The virtual content is designed to invite children to explore and discover, as they would at camp, layered with academic enrichment to help address the challenge of “summer slide” and the learning loss that has been seen over the last several months. 

Fresh Air Everywhere also connects children to the outdoors through interactive learning – kids even virtually visit our camp Model Farm! Participants also benefit from caring counselors who serve as role models and mentors. The program has helped create community in the virtual space so new friendships can be made, while investing in the social and emotional needs of children. 

Fresh Air Summer Spaces 

With the generous support of Bloomberg Philanthropies, Ford Foundation, and The JPB Foundation, Fresh Air Summer Spaces provides fun, free and safe play spaces for children ages 5- 13 around NYC. The program also provides young New Yorkers, ages 18- 24, opportunities to gain valuable work experience and earn income as part of our Youth Employment Program. 

Summer Spaces are fun, free and safe play spaces for children ages 5- 13 around NYC.

Summer Spaces turns closed streets and open spaces into age-appropriate play spaces creating, a model that can be replicated across New York City and beyond. Program sites in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens offer engaging outdoor activities including arts & crafts and recreation-based programming. Art projects included “paint your world,” and making kaleidoscopes, rhythm drums, “I am” collages, mobiles, cloud climbers and pinwheels. Children also participate in basketball drills, Frisbee games and even dance parties! 

Fresh Air Teen Programs 

With barriers to employment this summer and budget cuts to the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) in New York City, The Fund created critical job readiness and credentialing opportunities for teens. All participants receive stipends and participate in professional development workshops. 

The Fund is working with several partners to offer a range of virtual courses to youth, ages 14 to 17, to build basic, industry-level skills and receive a certificate upon completion.  Topics include Environmental Education, Video Game Design, Entrepreneurship and Architecture and Urban Design. 

“The Fresh Air Fund has a long history of providing leadership training and career awareness for teens through a wide range of summer and year-round programs. Through Fresh Air Teen Programs, young people will gain meaningful employment, along with opening doors to educational and career pathways. This initiative is designed to help fill the gap in critical summer youth employment opportunities,” said Fresh Air Fund Executive Director Fatima Shama. 

Fresh Air Open Spaces 

The Fresh Air Fund has partnered with the City Parks Foundation to create Fresh Air Open Spaces, a free outdoor environmental education and sports program for Fresh Air participants, ages 12 to 15, at three New York City Parks. Children participate in two week sessions. 

Fresh Air kids enjoy playing sports at the Pelham Bay Park Open Spaces site in the Bronx.

The program gives Fresh Air youth an opportunity to engage in fun environmental science exploration and sports activities at Marine Park in Brooklyn, Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx and Forest Park in Queens. Through this partnership, Fresh Air children enjoy two-week sessions, meeting for four hours a day, five days a week. 

Fresh Air Family Wellness 

Fresh Air Family Wellness is a free summer program at The Fresh Air Fund’s camps in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley. Fresh Air families enjoy family wellness day trips with time to relax, explore nature and participate in activities like crafts, swimming, hiking, boating and fishing.  

Families enjoy time together in the outdoors. Fishing has been a favorite activity! 

Since 1877 

The Fresh Air Fund has been a beacon in the New York City youth development community for over 140 years, providing New York City children with experiences, exposure and empowerment to help them succeed emotionally, academically and socially.  

Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, The Fresh Air Fund has continued to provide fun, engaging and enriching programming and to make a lasting positive impact on New York City youth. 

Learn more about each of The Fresh Air Fund’s Summer 2020 Programs