?6 Tips for Successful Summer Programs for Students

As an adult and college graduate, you already know the value of having students participate in powerful summer opportunities both for their personal growth and as an important resume builder.  But if you work in disadvantaged communities, as YES Prep does, the idea of figuring out how to fund expensive programs and trips can be a daunting one.  Combine with that with the hesitations students and parents sometimes have and it’s easy to give up.

Thanks to the drive of our first Student Opportunities Coordinator, Lynda Daniel, though, who now manages student opportunities for our system, participating in at least one amazing summer program is now a staple of the YES Prep experience.  In addition to countless NOLS & AMIGOS trips, internships, summer classes on college campuses, and camps, our students have managed to fund their way to Turkey, India, El Salvador, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Mexico, France, Colombia, and many other destinations in the past decade.

Here are Lynda’s tips for success:

Think big.  When we first got started with this, we assumed most of our families wouldn’t be able to contribute financially and may not have the time to fundraise heavily.  Because of this, we limited ourselves and the possibilities for our students.  We now know that, with a little guidance, our students can make any trip or program attainable and so we shoot for the moon!  Don’t worry, more specifics on how to actually wrangle the moon are below.

Follow their lead.  We may want students to participate in a certain kind of program that will look great for college, but students are more likely to follow through with fundraising and planning if they are excited and motivated about the program or trip.  So just ask the kids what they want to do and follow their lead.

Don’t be afraid to ask.  Before you give up on a program that’s too expensive or out-of-reach, pick up the phone.  Lynda has several examples of giving the director a call and finding out that there is actually scholarship money, that even though the deadline has passed a student can still apply, or that sure they can accept one more student.  This might not happen every time, but it’s well worth a quick phone call.

Put some ‘skin in the game.’  When it comes to trips that can cost over $1000, our students who have been most successful in raising all the money are the ones who are required to personally pay for a portion of the trip.  If a family has committed some of their own money, they are much more likely to rally around the fundraising projects to make sure the trip actually happens.  If you have nothing to lose, it’s easy to lose motivation for that car wash or garage sale. 

Plan ahead.  Lynda suggests setting benchmarks for when certain amounts need to be raised and identifying the major fundraisers for each month.  Early on, require families/students to pay a deposit for the trip and then set deadlines for their personal contributions, as well.  And you'll be surprised by the fundraising ideas students and families come up with when they feel responsible and empowered to drive the process. 

Team up.  If you have a group of students all working towards the same goal, it can be easier to keep everyone motivated and build up momentum for the trip.  Having groups of students working together can also get the whole campus rallied around their success and it can also be more comfortable for staff and others to donate to a group or campus team versus an individual student.

Get started now for next year!  Don’t have any group trips planned for this summer?  Now’s the perfect time to start planning for next year.  Start asking some kiddos what they want to do, shoot for the moon, and start planning!

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