For over a decade, the Shippensburg Community Resource Coalition (SCRC) has run the Summer Learning Program, providing meals and educational activities to children who typically receive free or reduced lunch during the school year. Shippensburg University’s Social Work and Gerontology department is proud to serve the SCRC.

Liz Fisher, department chair and professor of social work and gerontology, and Jami Burkett are key figures leading the program.

“The beautiful thing about the Summer Learning Program is any kid can come”, said Fisher. This open-door policy is made possible by federal guidelines that allow all children within the community the opportunity to participate. Regardless of income level, children can enjoy a free breakfast and lunch and engage in fun activities.

The program runs until August 2, from approximately 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and has seen growing attendance. Each day begins with breakfast, followed by free play and educational activities and then concludes with lunch. The structure of the camp ensures that children are not only properly fed during the summer months but also engaged in interactive learning experiences.

The impact of the Summer Learning Program projects beyond meeting the nutritional and educational needs of the youth community. Dr. Michael Lyman, professor of social work and gerontology, highlighted the program’s function in bringing the entire community together and providing Shippensburg University students with hands-on research opportunities.

Lyman recounted Gabby Fernando’s research, a psychology undergraduate and writing tutor, who conducted a mixed-methods assessment of the learning program. Through this research, Fernando was able to gain qualitative feedback from parents who send their children to the camp, and the large majority of the results revealed that parents were delighted to see that their children were staying active, versus sitting at home behind a screen.


This summer, Nicole Miles is continuing to expand upon the research at the SCRC, working on an analysis and an independent study. “We’re able to do research, she’s able to work and help at Summer Learning, and she’s able to complete an independent study to get her graduating on time,” Lyman explained.

Lyman also discussed the legacy of the late Sonja Payne, former coordinator of the SCRC. Payne was known for her enthusiasm for research, and she was a strong advocate for the summer learning program. Burkett, the current coordinator, has flawlessly stepped into Payne’s role, continuing to support the summer learning program’s mission. “Jami has done a really good job”, Lyman said. The SCRC continues to prioritize the use of interns, including high school work-study students, further enhancing the program and providing valuable experiences to the youth community.

The Summer Learning Program stands as living proof of the great work that the SCRC and the social work department do for the Shippensburg community. As it continues to grow and evolve, it continues to remain an essential resource for local children and a resource for student research.