Color Outside the Lines

K-12 Summer Learning Programs Increased Access to Opportunity in 2021

In 2021, the Oregon Stage Legislature committed $40 million to support summer programming at community-based organizations to help mitigate isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic and support student readiness for the 2021-2022 school year. These grants, administered through Oregon Community Foundation, complemented additional dollars made available to school districts for summer learning.

Below is an overview of findings from an evaluation conducted by the OCF Research & Learning team, using grant application data and insights gathered from interviews with a strategic sample of 35 funded programs. More detailed reporting is forthcoming and will be added to this page once available. 


Grants reached students statewide.

513 grants were made to 497 organizations across Oregon. Of those, 17 went to organizations operating statewide.

Grants reached students statewide

Note: Map counts based on the organization’s primary location; some organizations may also serve students in other counties.

All together, we estimate that programs served up to 340,000 students.

At the time of application, most programs intended to reach between 5 & 22,500 students. (Total figure may be an overestimate due to potential duplication of students across programs).

Funded programs aimed to serve students with the greatest need.

55% of programs estimated that at least three-quarters of students served would be from low-income families, and 45% estimated that at least half of students served would be students of color.

Programs aimed to serve students with greatest need

A wide range of programs were funded.

Funding reached both small and large programs. Most grants ranged in size from $2,500 to $373,000. The typical grant award was $50,000.

Program focus areas

Note: Chart shows proportion of grants made, based on program applications. Programs could select more than one area. Additional areas of focus include service learning (18%), summer school (13%) and museum learning (6%).

Full list of grants.


The below themes and insights were gathered through interviews with program leaders from a strategic sample of 35 funded organizations.

Summer learning programs are a valuable part of the learning ecosystem in Oregon.

Willamette Academy

Community-based programs complement and support in-school learning by offering relevant, experiential learning opportunities, providing academic supports like tutoring, and otherwise supporting the basic needs of students that ensure they are ready and able to learn. In 2021 in particular, these programs also engaged students and families in ways that helped mitigate isolation and other impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and supported the transition into the 2021-2022 school year.

"Most of our families and youth had been isolated because of COVID and this provided an opportunity to bring people together in a meaningful way to reconnect, interact, and center lived experiences as a community."

Ekalesia Samoa Atia’e Summer Camp

Summer learning programs can positively impact academic learning and social and emotional development.

Umpqua FV2S Art center exploration

Umpqua Valley Farm to School

Consistent with existing research,  summer learning programs reported that students benefited from a wide range of relevant learning opportunities they provided in 2021, including subject specific learning opportunities as well as culturally-relevant and culturally-specific programming.

“It’s great when you can kind of give them those feel, see, touch experiences… to focus on that kind of learning, because I think this summer was really about having moments when they don’t know they’re learning but just having fun experiences that allow them to be kids and then they’ll be like ‘Oh! I’ve learned something about jellyfish today!’”

Lincoln City Parks & Recreation

We also heard about benefits to both students and families through the respite and recovery provide by programs that ensure safe, supportive and fun spaces for students while parents work. Some programs also worked directly to address the trauma and isolation from COVID-19 pandemic and recent wildfires.

“The first day, a student was really down. The next day, she came in dancing and was so excited to be there. That’s what we do- we make it safe and fun for the students.”

Portland Public Schools’ Indian Education Summer Program

Socialization and community-building opportunities for both students and families bolstered social-emotional and mental health. Some students also gained important leadership and work experience, and preparation for future careers through programs focused on youth development and workforce readiness.

To learn more about how out of school time (summer and afterschool) has a positive impact on success for youth, check out OCF’s multi-year evaluation on out of school time.

The infusion of funding for summer learning programs in 2021 increased access to opportunity for students statewide.

Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center

Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center

In some cases, funding opened or reopened programs that would otherwise have been closed this summer. Many programs were able to reduce or eliminate program fees and otherwise reduced barriers to participation for many students who might not typically be able to access summer programs. Programs also used funds to reach new students and families and/or provide more expansive programming.

“Every single parent got a level of scholarship and majority at 100% scholarship. This allowed families to be fiscally stable again. Summer is a very important time when you don’t have a pot of money – to have support this summer was amazing.”

Neighbors for Kids

This funding also made it possible for programs to stretch, adapt and expand and collaborate in ways that will have a lasting impact.

Neskowin Valley School

Neskowin Valley School

In working hard to meet ever-changing student needs and ensure safety  during the COVID-19 pandemic, programs made many adaptations. For many programs, this summer was an opportunity to stretch. They redesigned, invested in and built out curriculum, expanded their reach, and added additional supports while creatively addressed staffing challenges. As a result, many built lasting resources for their programs. Funding also allowed some programs to launch or deepen collaborations with nonprofits and schools in their communities, often improving coordination of services as well as expanding access.

More details from the 2021 K-12 Summer Learning Evaluation are available in this slide deck.

Other Oregon Research about Summer Learning

OregonASK also conducted research about summer learning program offerings during 2021; their reporting can be found here:

Foundations for a Better Oregon recently completed reports about their research alongside REAP and the Chinese Friendship Association of Portland 

“We want to expand and we have a vision. We want to professionalize the work, to pay living wages and expand programming statewide, but we need sustainability of funding. We need long-term investment.”

Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center