YWCA Evanston/North Shore and Books & Breakfast, a program that supports elementary students in Evanston/Skokie School District 65, just completed their summer partnership for 2019, marking five years of this innovative effort.
Since 2014, the YWCA has served as the summer gathering spot for the children and families of Books & Breakfast, which serves Dewey, Kingsley, Lincolnwood, and Lincoln Schools in Evanston.
The Books & Breakfast children meet on Saturdays at the YWCA to get new books to read and receive swim instruction from the YWCA aquatics staff. Approximately 130 children are part of this summer program, which ran from June 22 to August 10 this year.
“The summer partnership with YWCA Evanston/North Shore began because we wanted to do something to keep the kids engaged and prevent ‘summer slide,’” said Tania Margonza, lead site director at Dewey School and communications director for Books & Breakfast. “So, finding a place where the children could check in with us, get books, and do something fun and valuable, like swimming, made perfect sense.”
She added, “At the same time, the YWCA was looking for ways to expand its aquatics outreach, so it was a great match.”
According to Margonza, the children are excited to get new books and also to swim. For many, this is their first exposure to swim instruction.
“We have some students who have never been in a pool, so this is an opportunity to get them comfortable in the water, receive basic swim instruction, and start them on the road to being safe in the water,” she said. “The YWCA staff is so welcoming to the children and their families, so they begin to understand that the YWCA is a resource they can access beyond the summer program. That’s a wonderful side benefit.”
Said one of the Books & Breakfast participants about the summer program, “When I first came here, I was really excited because it was my first time swimming. I really like swimming with my friends now.”
Peter Raffel, YWCA Evanston/North Shore’s aquatics manager, values the partnership with Books & Breakfast because it’s an avenue to reach children who otherwise might not have access to water safety instruction and the joy of swimming.
“This partnership furthers YWCA’s mission to provide access and opportunity in our pools. One of my favorite things about working with Books & Breakfast is that we’re able to reach kids in a way we normally wouldn’t: by empowering them through academics, as well as in the pool,” he said. “I think this holistic approach really helps kids succeed.”
Margonza noted that one of the best parts about the summer partnership is how it fosters relationships on many levels.
“When we all get together on Saturdays at the YWCA, we connect with the children and their parents, and the YWCA aquatics staff does the same,” she said. “The YWCA is our hub for the summer. It’s where we build community and broaden our reach beyond school.”
Books & Breakfast currently operates in four schools in District 65, offering a nutritious breakfast and homework assistance so children can begin the school day physically, emotionally, and academically prepared. Learn more at www.booksbreakfast.org.
YWCA Evanston/North Shore is on a mission to eliminate racism and empower women. It works to provide freedom from violence, economic security, racial and gender equity, and access and opportunity in its aquatics programs. It serves more than 10,000 people annually in 16 communities in Cook County. Learn more at www.ywca-ens.org.