D’Lila blows bubbles in the sun.

D’Lila blows bubbles in the sun.

Fortress Summer is the oldest running program at Fortress, originating in the 1990s as a ministry of Fortress Church. Designed to keep kids safe, fed, and engaged during the summer months, Fortress Summer now boasts a robust spiritual and extracurricular curriculum that not only prevents the well-documented summer slide, but propels kids forward in their academic and social-emotional learning.

Operating for six weeks each year, Fortress Summer serves approximately 100 kids from ages 2-11 (all students enrolled in the previous year’s after school and preschool programs are eligible to enroll). The program is facilitated by Fortress staff and energized by the addition of dozens of weekly volunteers from local and traveling church youth groups. In addition to working with our children, youth group teens participate in Urban Experience, a program designed to develop an understanding of and empathy for families living in generational poverty.

Ms. Emma and Mr. Charlie’s class make silly faces while enjoying the shade of our courtyard.

Ms. Emma and Mr. Charlie’s class make silly faces while enjoying the shade of our courtyard.

Youth group teen volunteers are paired with our children and form meaningful bonds over the course of the week by interacting with them in structured classroom time, but also in free play. These relationships, encapsulated by photo and memory books that the groups construct over the summer, are at the heart of the summer program.

Our youngest preschool students continue their learning through FrogStreet curriculum to maintain a consistent, safe environment which enables them to grow and thrive. Our students ages 4 & up enjoy a break from their traditional school schedule, and participate in a variety of activities promoting reading, STEM, and creativity. Reading challenges, group projects, science experiments, computer programming, and multimedia art are staples of the summer curriculum. All students receive daily breakfast and lunch through our partnership with USDA food program, Purple Hearts.

D’Iria and her buddy enjoy a field trip to a playplace.

D’Iria and her buddy enjoy a field trip to a playplace.

Bible stories and weekly themes relating biblical lessons to everyday life make the summer a highly enriching spiritual experience for our students. In summers past, we have learned how Joseph demonstrated love to his family, even when they turned their back on him; how the Old Testament prophets were obedient through persecution and oppression; how Moses led the Israelite slaves to freedom even when he was scared to stand up for the right thing; and much more.

Hands-down, the highlight of the Fortress Summer experience is weekly field trips, hosted by our visiting youth groups. Through field trips to local sites, our students travel to Prehistoric times at local museums — including Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and the Perot Museum, discover exotic creatures at the Fort Worth Zoo, reach new heights at jump parks like Pump It Up, and simply enjoy the company of their buddies and Fortress friends at the movies, Chuck E. Cheese, and local parks & gyms. For students ages 8 & older, the summer is punctuated by a trip to Camp of the Hills, a week-long sleepaway camp in the Texas Hill Country.

Like all of Fortress’s programs, Fortress Summer is offered free-of-charge to families who were enrolled in our school year programs. In lieu of tuition, parents and guardians complete 12 hours of parent engagement and participate in two annual conferences to remain eligible for reenrollment.

Fortress 5th graders construct a Lego tower for an engineering assignment.

Fortress 5th graders construct a Lego tower for an engineering assignment.

Fortress students and their buddies lead songs during worship time on their field trip to a local church gym.

Fortress students and their buddies lead songs during worship time on their field trip to a local church gym.

Visiting youth group “buddies” pray over their kids at nearby Hillside Park.

Visiting youth group “buddies” pray over their kids at nearby Hillside Park.

Youth group buddies lead Fortress students in “fast songs” like Deep and Wide, Jesus Loves Me, and Down By the River.

Youth group buddies lead Fortress students in “fast songs” like Deep and Wide, Jesus Loves Me, and Down By the River.

Youth group buddies from Decatur pose in front of the Fort Worth skyline.

Youth group buddies from Decatur pose in front of the Fort Worth skyline.