Summer Programs for Youth

RAD Photo Banner copy


Summer Programs for Youth at Mayo Street Arts include Morning Literacy for students ages 5-7, our flagship RAD! (Reading! Art! Dance!) program for students ages 7-11, and a free lunch program for all participants.

The goal of each arts-based literacy program is to provide a vibrant, safe and inspiring center of summer learning that helps children ages 5-11 reach grade reading level. The program engages youth in the arts, builds community in the East Bayside and surrounding neighborhoods, and is accessible to low income families in the community.

MSA’s 2022 summer programs have been made possible in part by generous support from the Brick and Beam Society of the United Way of Greater Portland, the United Way of Greater Portland, and Portland Public Schools.


Most children live within walking distance and reside at nearby public housing. Many children and their families are English language learners and speak multiple languages. Many parents are in the process of assimilating, finding work, and navigating a new life.

In addition, MSA strives to ensure that our staff and volunteers reflect the many communities we serve, particularly here in our East Bayside neighborhood.


Students practice reading their favorite books. (2018)

Our Morning Literacy program for ages 5-7 includes tutoring, teaching, reading, games, and lunch. The morning tutoring program addresses a gap in summer learning for rising kindergarten and first grade students who will benefit from summer learning.

Students engage in embodied theatrical reflections after read alouds; go on neighborhood vocabulary scavenger hunts; receive one-on-one assistance with reading, reading comprehension, and writing; and more.

Our morning program is designed to provide a variety of activities that repeat on a regular schedule to help provide reassuring consistency and familiarity for our youngest students.


RAD! students join guest artist Daniel Minter to explore Minter’s art installation, “Mother’s Garden” at Fox Field (2019).

RAD! (Reading, Art, Dance!) provides a literacy-rich environment with a focus on reading and the arts. Students receive reading and writing instruction along with daily arts enrichment activities like music, dance, and puppet theater.

RAD! serves up to 30 students ages 7-11 each day. RAD! is taught by one lead teacher and two teaching associates, with additional support from community volunteers.

The program is unique in that it provides a curriculum for students of varied ages, languages, and reading abilities. Increase in reading enjoyment is a primary goal, whether students read on their own, with help from an adult, or simply listen to stories with a group.

Students discuss books they read, write and share their own stories, and eventually volunteer to read to others. Students participate in the Portland Public Library’s Summer Reading program and receive weekly visits from the Bookmobile.

Students create their own performances for the end of summer celebration, National Night Out, including a puppet parade through East Bayside.

Guest artist visits in 2022 will include plein air watercolor painting with Crystal Cawley, West African drumming with Namory Keita, a mini concert from the Bowdoin International Music Festival, dancing with Portland Youth Dance, a field trip to visit Pamela Moulton’s TEMPOart sculptural installation in Payson Park, and more!


The program is free by invitation, with priority to new Mainers and students who may not otherwise have access to a summer learning program. Students are invited by Portland Public Schools teachers and staff at Mayo Street Arts with recommendations from Community Policing, Learning Works, Portland Housing, and other community stakeholders.

Enrollment begins in April and—due to the popularity of the program—some students may be waitlisted. We encourage interested families to sign-up early to ensure their spot.

Please email  our Community Outreach Manager, Kemal Pohan, at or call MSA at (207) 879-4629 for more information regarding enrollment.


Puppet parade at National Night Out. (2019)


The free lunch program provides important healthy nutrition for children who may be food insecure or not otherwise have access to healthy meals. Lunch is provided by Portland Public Schools.

Both the morning and afternoon programs include free lunch, as well as a healthy snack during each session.


Both our Morning Literacy and our RAD! programs are staffed by a combination of year-round MSA staff members, summer program teaching associates, and community volunteers.

Do you enjoy reading and mentoring young people? Interested in volunteering? Please email our Community Outreach Manager, Kemal Pohan, at or call MSA at (207) 879-4629 for more information.


All summer program staff and volunteers are provided with training to increase their awareness of the prevalence and effect of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in the lives of many of the students we serve.

For an introduction to this concept, we recommend watching Nadine Burke Harris’ TED talk, How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime.

In addition to basic training and awareness, we start off each session with breathing exercises to both set a tone for the day and as a tool to be used when de-escalating behavioral outbursts and interpersonal conflicts.

Many thanks to Maine Behavioral Healthcare who provided us with the skills to undertake this important work through a program funded by the United Way of Southern Maine’s Thrive2027 initiative!


Mayo Street Arts coordinates a summer consortium of arts programming partners LearningWorks, Portland Rec, Reiche Summer School, the YMCA, and the Boys and Girls Club. Based on the idea that music, theater, and art enhance students’ understanding of literature—and the world—performances and events have included puppet theater shows, kids concerts, and art exhibits.


A culminating event of summer is the annual neighborhood block party, National Night Out. The event includes a neighborhood parade with giant puppets, processing through the streets of our neighborhood from MSA to Fox Field. An initiative bringing neighbors, businesses, and police together for a night of fun, food, music, and solidarity, the local event showcases dance, music, and other accomplishments to parents and community members representing the unique talents of East Bayside and Portland.


RAD! field trip to Bug Light Park. (2019 – Photo by Jesse Brooks)


Gains in grade-level reading proficiency and enjoyment of reading are cultivated through regular use of reading material as the impetus for our creative explorations, direct assistance and tutoring, exciting visits from the bookmobile, and participation in Portland Public Library’s Summer Reading Challenge. Progress towards these goals is quantified through the use of pre- and post-assessment surveys.


Since 2016, MSA’s summer youth programs have brought a new level of creative activity and community togetherness to the neighborhood. The MSA youth program model is a community-based, grass-roots endeavor reaching students and families of need, building a welcoming community resource of families, artists, and teachers within walking distance.

We are excited about summer programming and the continued positive impacts we can make through partnerships and caring efforts by the community.