It was a cool, foggy summer morning as three school buses made their way on Highway 94 from Waukegan to the Kohl Children’s Museum. The buses carried more than 140 pre-school and Kindergarten students who were attending Waukegan District 60’s Summer Learning Program. Five-year-old Lena sat with her hands clasped excitedly - this was the first time she was going on a field trip - and the first time she had been outside her town, Waukegan.

The Summer Learning Program and the Kohl Children’s Museum field trip came to be thanks to Waukegan’s Campaign for Grade Level Reading. The Campaign is a community-wide effort, led by United Way of Lake County (UWLC), to increase the number of children from low-income families reading proficiently by the end of third grade. Summer learning opportunities are needed for children to maintain and advance academic growth during the summer months.

Lena was able to attend the Summer Learning Program with the help of a scholarship provided by the Women’s Leadership Council (WLC) of United Way of Lake County. The scholarships supported nearly 30 low-income Waukegan children.

Five WLC members volunteered as chaperones and experienced first hand the importance of their investment as they explored and laughed with the children.

In Waukegan’s Summer Learning Program, students learned and practiced essential academic skills such as math, reading, and writing. And during this field trip, they were able to take part in an enriching opportunity that most low-income children would not able to experience. The students played in 17 different hands-on, interactive, and engaging learning exhibits. Lena played in the veterinarian clinic and told her teacher “When I grow up, I want to be a doctor for animals.”

And as the field trip came to an end the students headed back to the school buses. When asked what was Lena’s favorite part of the day she smiled and said “everything!”

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