Join United Way of Southeast Michigan’s New Summer Discovery Program!

Fun and learning combine in an innovative new summer program geared toward increasing access to quality summer activities regardless of financial barriers. An insider explains.

With summer and the end of the school year fast approaching, many families are facing the question: what’s next? Summer can be a great time for kids to try new activities and get academic enrichment. However, these types of programs can be costly. 

Plus, parents working outside the home need childcare during the summer months. This leaves many southeast Michigan families feeling the heat, and not in a good way.

Elen Gilchrist from United Way of Southeast Michigan

This common dilemma is exactly what the United Way of Southeast Michigan’s Summer Discovery program seeks to address. “We believe that every child should have access to enriching summer programs,” says Ellen Gilchrist, Senior Director of Early Childhood and Education Services. “Summer Discovery provides children in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties with opportunities to engage in activities and connect with organizations that offer unique experiences not typically available to them..”

How Summer Discovery works

Summer Discovery is not your typical summer camp, says Gilchrist. “The program offers free, full-day summer activities to qualifying families, with over 100 sites spread across the region.”

These sites are designed to be convenient, with many located either within the child’s own school district, or with a nearby outside vendor as part of a sponsorship with the United Way of Southeast Michigan. From academics like coding workshops to the arts, outdoor adventures or athletics, there is a wide range of activities to enjoy. 

United Way of Southeast Michigan
Photo Credit: United Way of Southeast Michigan

The Summer Discovery Program is not only enriching and fun for kids, it’s also convenient for parents, says Gilchrist. 

“From a child’s perspective the Summer Discovery Program is all about fun, exposing them to experiences and opportunities. For parents, they have the security of knowing that their child is involved in a quality five-day, full-day program for five weeks, with food included, at no cost to them.”

How to enroll

Enrollment for the Summer Discovery Program is now open, with up to 22,000 seats available for K-8 students across the region. Families can visit the Summer Discovery website to explore available programs and find contact information for local sites. 

Recognizing the diverse needs and interests of families, the incredibly user-friendly website is equipped with interactive maps and detailed information about participating sites, says Gilchrist. 

“Our Summer Discovery website makes it easy for busy parents to find what they are looking for. We know everyone has different needs and we want to meet families where they are.”

While many seats are available, spots are expected to fill up fast. “Register early to ensure your spot,” says Gilchrist.

Why join Summer Discovery?

Gilchrist emphasizes that Summer Discovery is meant to be enjoyable but also beneficial to children’s growth and development: “Summer is a time to try amazing new things and make new friends. Our goal is engaged, happy kids.” 

By exposing children to new experiences and fostering social-emotional learning, the program helps bridge the gap between families of different socio-economic backgrounds, creating a more equitable future for all.

Not only does the program provide a safe and fun environment for children during the summer months, but it also offers valuable opportunities for academic enrichment, says Gilchrist. 

Parents, Teachers and Students at United Way of Southeast Michigan
Photo Credit: United Way of Southeast Michigan

“We created Summer Discovery in part to help prevent the dreaded ‘summer slide’ where kids lose academic skills during summer break. Our program time is intentional. By participating, kids can not only prevent learning loss, but they may even end up further ahead than when they ended the previous school year. It is our aim that kids can return to school ready to learn and thrive.”

Even more exciting is that Summer Discovery partners with some of the area’s most popular and esteemed youth activity providers. For example, kids can get access to programs like Figure Skating in Detroit, The Konnection, Downtown Boxing Gym, PeacePlayers International, Racquet Up Detroit and Math Core, just to name a few.

Empowering families, empowering communities

As Summer Discovery embarks on its inaugural year, the future looks bright. With a target audience spanning across Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, the program is poised to make a significant impact on the lives of thousands of children and families.

Young Boy at United Way of Southeast Michigan
Photo Credit: United Way of Southeast Michigan

“This initiative is a testament to what can happen when communities come together to invest in the future of their children,” says Gilchrist. “By partnering with schools and community organizations, the program aims to ensure that every child has access to a summer filled with excitement and growth.”

To find out more, choose your child’s activities and register, visit Summer Discovery is funded through the support of United Way of Southeast Michigan and the Ballmer Group. 

Jenny Kales
Jenny Kales
Content editor Jenny Kales has been in the business of writing for more than 20 years. A natural storyteller, she loves helping Metro Parent clients tell their stories in a way that resonates with their audiences.


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