It’s summertime in Atlanta, the perfect time to slow down and enjoy the company of our families, friends, and neighbors.
It’s also the time of year when we need to be most vigilant about our city’s kids. They’re out of school, and away from the structure of positive after-school activities.
I’ve made children a key focus area of my administration. That’s why I honored my first term pledge to reopen all 33 of our recreation centers, and with the help of our business and non-profit community, we’re opening Centers of Hope throughout Atlanta. We’re now bringing enhanced youth development programming to more than 1,300 kids a week through our after-school programs.
Along with this programming, we serve snacks and hot meals to our city’s most vulnerable youth. We’re making a tangible difference in our young people’s lives each and every day, serving more than 127,000 hot meals at 17 sites in the past school year.
But our kids also need opportunities to stay active, both physically and mentally, during the summer months. I will not take a summer break from helping our kids, for the sake of the children, their families, and the future of our city.
My administration is working hard to make sure this happens through a variety of program offerings. I know these programs are yielding tangible benefits; it’s no coincidence that teen crime is down 25 percent since I took office.
Our Kids @ Play program gets children in Atlanta “off the couch” and into parks. Three times a week, kids aged 5 to 12 can spend the afternoon participating in free, structured activities like sports, games, arts and crafts, fitness demos, and board games. The program takes place at five recreation sites around Atlanta—Orange, Perkerson, English, Collier, and Zaban.
There are still spots available at the 24 Camp Best Friends sites. Camp Best Friends offers instructional activities to more than 2,700 participants. Kids can learn about a wide range of subjects, from creative writing to martial arts to dance.
Also through Camp Best Friends, more than 100 of Atlanta’s teens are participating in this year’s Summer Service of Learning program. Over eight weeks, they will work on an environmental conversation community project and receive leadership training, SAT and career prep, and swim lessons. They will also assist with nutrition and literacy education at the Kids @ Play program.
We even have activities for children as young as three, through our “tots” program, including cheerleading, flag football, and our “Tot Olympics.”
And the entire family can enjoy our 363 parks covering more than 4,000 acres of our city. I encourage everyone to come and play on any one of our 75 basketball courts, 110 ball fields, and 182 tennis courts. Or cool off at one of the 12 outdoor pools that are now open throughout the city. And this year, we’re offering exciting new programs at our pools, such as Early Bird Swim at Grant Park Pool.
Of course, not every day can be enjoyed outdoors. Some days are best spent indoors reading a good book. Like any skill, reading takes practice, and our kids need to read during the summer to keep their reading skills sharp. I was proud to kick off another year of the “Mayor’s Summer Reading Club,” which encourages every child in Atlanta to read while on their summer break. The Club will provide 15,000 free books to Atlanta’s children and families, and throughout the summer, libraries, camps, and other institutions across Atlanta will hold book club readings and other fun learning activities.
For more information on accessing our programs for children, you may visit their website or call 404.546.6788.
Our children are Atlanta’s most valuable asset, and I will continue to invest in their future throughout the year.
I wish all of you a fun, safe, and active summer. God bless.