BOSTON (SHNS) – Basketball, pottery, gardening, TV and music career exploration sessions, yoga, dance, entrepreneurism workshops, and movie nights are among the activities available to young people through a Department of Conservation and Recreation summer program that one supporter said is so important it should be funded throughout the year.

After kicking off the 2021 Summer Nights initiative in Springfield last week with an announcement of $1.5 million in funding to support 55 programs in almost 80 locations, Gov. Charlie Baker joined other state officials at a Boston playground Tuesday afternoon to celebrate its offerings.

Shawn Brown, the executive director of BAM (Becoming A Man), said the programming is particularly important after a school year disrupted by COVID-19, “especially for our Black and brown young people who didn’t enroll in in-person learning.”

“I believe that our young people are wired to be connected to something, and if we don’t connect them to something positive, there’s a lot of negative things for them to get connected to,” Brown said. “This is why programs like DCR Summer Nights are crucial in the commonwealth, and in my humble opinion, should be funded year-round, because it allows organizations to serve our youth longer hours that extend into the evening.”

Baker said he hoped Summer Nights continues to expand. “To the kids, I just want to say, I can’t imagine, honestly you just can’t imagine what a terrible, awful, rotten, crummy year so many of you have had with the pandemic and all that has come with it,” he said. “I hope these programs and other opportunities that are made available over the course of the summer give you a chance to get back some of the joy and some of the fun that comes with being young.”