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Cultivating Connection

August 18, 2022


School is cool for kids in a summer educational program funded by United Way Winnipeg donors

Help change lives like Dann, Faith and Diane’s in Winnipeg now.

It’s just after 10:30 a.m. on a Thursday in July, and a roomful of kids at Victoria Albert School are working on their fractions.

“Two and a half!” “Two and a quarter!” “Three quarters!” they call out, as they try to calculate how tall their teachers are using colourful paper chains.

The group is laughing and smiling, clapping and cheering … it’s about as much fun as you can have while learning math in the summer.

That combination of study and synergy defines the experience for kids in the Community School Investigators (CSI) Summer Learning Program—a five-week summer enrichment program facilitated by BGC Winnipeg in partnership with Winnipeg School Division and funded by United Way Winnipeg donors.

The CSI Program was conceived in 2004 as a way for kids to stay engaged in learning in the summer—so September starts one step forward, rather than two steps back. Summer learning loss has been identified as a major barrier for children in low-income households who may not have the same opportunities for out-of-school educational experiences.

“Kids leave school in the spring, and if they’re not doing the work they enter the fall with a loss of knowledge,” said Kate Cove, BGC Winnipeg’s manager of education programs.

“That’s where CSI comes in … We’re still exercising those parts of their brain.”


Agency partner BGC Winnipeg’s CSI program makes summer learning fun and experiential.

“We need kids to have confidence in themselves in order to succeed.”

Victoria Albert School in Winnipeg’s Centennial neighbourhood is one of 12 schools to host the CSI Program. In the spring, teachers and parents work together to register children who would be a good fit for the summer sessions.

Then, over five weeks in July and August, kids are combined in classes of varying ages and participate in activities to strengthen their math, reading, and writing skills, along with problem solving and language comprehension.

Mentors also rely on a curriculum of experiential learning to inject fun into function.

“They’re going on field trips, gardening, cooking—but getting to work on fractions as well,” Cove said.

Student Diane, who is headed to Grade 6 in the fall, is one of more than 700 children participating in CSI this year. She said swimming has been one of her favourite things to do, along with hanging out with other kids.

“We just started making plants,” Diane said, explaining how she and her classmates added dirt and seeds to small pots.

Seeing the kids thrive when they work together as a group is so rewarding for CSI facilitators, said Cove.

“A lot of kids’ confidence comes from not only getting the right answer, but making those connections with their peers,” she said. “Kids are constantly getting down on themselves, not thinking (they) can do something—it’s hard to go out on a limb and try something new when you don’t have a lot of confidence. (Here), that ability to be resilient and try new things get lessened.

“We need kids to have confidence in themselves in order to succeed.”

15-year-old Faith understands the benefits of CSI for herself and her whole family. Faith spent six years as a CSI student before moving up to assistant, where she now helps in the kitchen and wherever else she’s needed.

“It definitely helped me be more social,” said Faith of her time in the program. “It definitely helped me expand my social skills.”

Faith loves watching her younger sister Diane grow into her own at CSI, too—and the girls’ 13-year-old brother Dann also volunteers.

Since the siblings’ parents both work out of the home, CSI is a safe and fulfilling place for them to spend their days in the summer.

“It’s nice when you know there are multiple people being present for your kids.”

Cove said she’s so grateful United Way Winnipeg donors not only provide sustained and core funding for BGC Winnipeg, but also program funding for CSI, so parents can enrol their kids at no cost.

“Parents don’t have to worry about applying for subsidy for it or saving the money over the course of the year…,” said Cove, adding two nutritious daily meals are also provided, taking even more pressure off parents.

“United Way makes that happen.”

Cove said programs like CSI are part of the village it takes to raise children, especially at a time when life is more complicated than it has been in years.

“More parents than ever are picking up a second job or having a side hustle,” she said. “Things are becoming more difficult for parents … everyone is so burned out that to be present for your kids can be really hard.

“To have community partners that say, ‘Okay, let us take care of some of that for you’—I hope that it provides stress relief for some parents and caregivers.

“It’s nice when you know there are multiple people being present for your kids.”

Help change lives of more kids in Winnipeg now.


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