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Holiday Giving Challenge: Summer of a Lifetime

Summer of a Lifetime supports students by providing summer academic enrichment programs at colleges and universities throughout the country. Through this program, incoming juniors in Chicago’s Noble Network of Charter Schools explore subject areas they are passionate about, job shadow, and immerse themselves in a completely new college environment – experiencing new cities, college courses, and other students from diverse backgrounds and countries.

[This story was contributed by Jill Kohlberg, Executive Director at Summer of a Lifetime.]

While making the near-impossible decision of where to go to school, it can be helpful to lean on someone who has recently attended. Real stories and experiences from college students can help someone decide whether college is the right choice, and importantly, what field to study. Now, imagine being immersed in that real college environment yourself, before you make that life-changing choice.

That’s why Tonya and Michael Milkie founded Summer of a Lifetime. By providing high school students in the Noble Network with the opportunity to learn what life is like at colleges such as the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Stanford and Brown, Summer of a Lifetime gives students that clear picture of college life.

Not only do students get exposure to real college courses in biology, entrepreneurship, communications, and more, but they’re also forced to be completely self-reliant throughout the entire program. Whether it be learning how to allocate a budget for groceries and living essentials, doing their own laundry, or managing their class workload, their success falls squarely on their shoulders.

Latricia, a Summer of a Lifetime participant who will be attending University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for her sophomore year in 2018, told me that when she spent two weeks at Colorado State University, it helped her realize two things. One, she wanted to go school closer to home so that she wasn’t required to take an airplane, and two, although she was still interested in fields within STEM, she wanted to pursue an area other than medicine. During her time at Colorado State, she studied the brain, including the dissection of one, and decided she’d rather use her own brain in another area.

Latricia is one of the nearly 6,000 students who participated in Summer of a Lifetime since 1997. Ninety-five percent of the program’s alumni go on to pursue college, and graduate at a 60% higher rate than the US national average.

We won’t rest on our laurels as we continue to grow and expand the program each year. In 2017, for the first time ever, we had over 1,000 participants. DRW’s Holiday Giving Challenge has helped us immensely over the last four years in our fundraising efforts, which contribute to our goal of admitting one-third of every high school class in the Noble Network to the program. The funds we’ve raised have helped 15-20 additional students from DRW College Prep every summer go through the program.

To get involved in sponsoring a student or a class of Summer of a Lifetime students, or to learn more about the program’s mission, please visit