Congratulations to the Devoted Dreamers Academy for completing their first summer program. The Devoted Dreamers Academy is a summer program started by Demario Davis for middle school students based at Mission First in Jackson, Mississippi. This the final in a three part blog series about the process Smarter Learning Group went through with Demario Davis to make this program a reality. Read the first and second installments.

During the final day of the Devoted Dreamers Academy, participants made presentations to the group on the books they’d read, made ice cream while learning about the science behind salt, found out which team had won the program-long incentive competition, and enjoyed an ice cream social.
Youth test their reaction time.
On an end-of-summer survey almost all participants agreed or strongly agreed that the Devoted Dreamers Academy had helped them feel prepared for the school year and that they had learned a lot in the program. As participants reflected on what they learned or enjoyed about the program many mentioned the reading program. They enjoyed the way the teachers helped them understand the required books on the summer reading list as well as how they made the books come alive. One such activity had participants create their own suitcases similar to the one Bud had in the novel, Bud Not Buddy. They had a chance to talk about the physical items might best represent them and their lives. One 8th grader explained of her experience, “I got a lot of things out of this camp. It taught me how to be a leader and read more. I also learned how to do UNRAAVEL [a reading strategy] better.”

Other participants mentioned the science activities. Throughout the course of the summer they did a number of sports related science activities, some of which were based on the NBC Learn curriculum. Participants learned about the shapes of different balls, testing footballs volleyballs and tennis balls to find which were the fastest, most accurate, farthest, etc. They created their own sports teams based on salaries real players are paid and their play stats. They learned about the science and math of reaction time and tested their own reaction speed with each other.

Many participants stated that they were most influenced by the character development focus of the program. One young man summed up the program in the following way. “I learned how to show courage. I learned how to be brave and stand out from the crowd. I learned how to do the right thing when nobody is watching and show integrity and leadership. My favorite part of the Devoted Dreamers Academy is when the Red Hots went undefeated at all the games last week.”

And of course, participants enjoyed the sports skills development, team competition and staff-led recreation during the afternoon of each program day. Teamwork and fun were a critical way to keep participants engaged. One young person explained, “I enjoyed the rap battles and seeing other people’s train of thought. I learned reading makes a difference.”

Another young person wrapped up the program by saying, “I enjoyed playing games and learning new things and meeting new people. It was good to read more and more each day.”

Demario, Mission First and their volunteers, and all of participants are looking forward to coming back to the Devoted Dreamers Academy next summer.