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For Idaho kids, summer isn’t a break. It’s a time to learn.

Danny Stewart is a teacher-poet for The Cabin literary center.
Danny Stewart is a teacher-poet for The Cabin literary center. Provided by Jerry Brady

School’s out, and it’s play time. But it’s also a time that can change young people’s lives, so let’s drop in on Danny Stewart.

Stewart is a poet-teacher in the Writers in the Schools project of The Cabin, the center for readers and writers. Today, he’s exhorting seven teenage boys in the Ada County juvenile detention center to look into their lives and feelings to try something new: Write a poem.

Danny asks about their struggles and shares his own at their age. When boys speak up, he says things like, “Exactly, exactly!” As they write, he dispenses encouragement. In an hour, they’ve written and recited poems more revealing than you or I would risk — and more accomplished.

He’s validating their creativity and worth. He’s teaching “how to control the message about who you are,” as when addressing a judge, counselor or peer. Stewart has been doing this for years, knowing it pays off. Incarcerating juveniles costs a shocking national average of $148,000 a year, vastly more than for adults. He has seen the process of writing a single poem change a life.

Experiences like this play out all over the region every summer. Summer is critical make-up and advancement time — much of it private and volunteer. It’s easy to take for granted.

What is the value of the YMCA providing 11,000 four-hour swimming lessons for kids each year, many of those classes free and in the summer? How about the 964 poor kids who are fully prepared for kindergarten thanks to the United Way of Treasure Valley? Or the 100,000 free summer meals kids will receive around here this summer?

Let’s close with a shout-out for Caldwell. The National League of Cities recently chose Caldwell’s mayor to join five other mayors at the Institute on Advancing Education and Health through a Community Schools Strategy.

Working with the YMCA, United Way, schools and businesses for the last six years, Caldwell’s “P-16 Program” has been tackling every aspect of successfully educating kids. School’s out, but it’s going strong.

Jerry Brady is a member of Compassionate Boise, a new organization encouraging compassion in all aspects of life.