Eastside Neighborhood

KydNet steps forward into the Kalamazoo’s Eastside to help families own their summers

For the second year, the Kalamazoo Youth Development Network (KydNet) is visiting three Kalamazoo neighborhoods, including the Eastside, to showcase quality summer youth programs and resources in their Summer Kickoff Events.

Last year, around 100 families attended each of the events that took place on the Northside, Edison and the Eastside, but this year organizers expect to draw 300 at each neighborhood,  says Meg Blinkiewicz, KydNet Executive Director. 

“We really want for this to build access to summer programming for all youth, but especially in high-priority neighborhoods,” says Blinkiewicz.

High-quality summer youth programs are vital, particularly for youth in these neighborhoods, says Blinkiewicz. The long-term academic loss involved with summer slide are considerable, and it has an even greater impact on lower-income families than on middle- and higher-income families who may have more available resources to provide high-quality summer experiences.

“Low-income families are hit hardest by summer slide,” says Blinkiewicz. “Two years of summer slide during the elementary years can account for a 75 percent loss by high school.”

In addition, it costs school districts an average of $1,500 per student to catch them up academically when they return to school in the fall, Blinkiewicz says.

For the second year, Kalamazoo Youth Development Network is hosting three neighborhood Summer Event Kickoffs to provide youth summer activity resources.
Along with announcing available summer youth programs, many of which are free or have scholarships, Blinkiewicz says the event is also an opportunity to connect neighbors with each other and to have a good time. There will be food, games, and giveaways, as well as vendors who will be promoting other available resources, including health, throughout the county.

The neighborhood events, with the tagline Own Your Summer, are part of KydNet’s larger mission to “ensure that all Kalamazoo County youth have access to high-quality, youth-driven, diverse, inclusive and equitable out-of-school time (OST) programs,” according to its website.

“High-quality summer programs for youth have such a significant impact on overall academic and social success,” says Blinkiewicz. “And it really is an equity issue. All the work we do is related to equity.”

To help make relevant summer programming choices, each family who attends will be given a family planner that includes all dates, times, places, activities, and organizations that are available for youth, not just in their own neighborhoods, but across the county.

For ease in searching for specific programs for ages and activity types, KydNet, sponsored in part by the United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region, also has an online data bank where parents can plug in information, such as “Middle School” and “Art” and discover all applicable activities in the county.

The Eastside event will take place Tues., June 4 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Wilson Park,  2520 Coy Ave., located behind the Kalamazoo Public Library’s Eastwood Branch off of East Main near Hardings Friendly Market. 

The Northside Summer Kickoff Event will take place at LaCrone Park, 535 W. Paterson St., Thurs., May 16 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. And 

The Edison event will take place Friday, June 7 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Boys and Girls Club, 915 Lake St.

For more information, please see the KydNet website here.

Read more articles by Theresa Coty O'Neil.

Theresa Coty O’Neil is a freelance writer, editor, and writing teacher with over two decades of covering people, places, and events in the Kalamazoo community. She is the Project Editor of On the Ground Kalamazoo.