Hope in a Time of Disruption
by Michael Coiner
As 2020 comes to a close, we wanted to highlight a couple of great after school programs that have pivoted to provide hope during this time of historical disruption. Eliseo Flores, from Centro Cultural
, and Roberto Bermejo, from the Hillsboro Inukai Family Boys & Girls Club
, shared with us how they’ve continued to serve students and uphold safety guidelines to further the missions of their organizations. Even during a pandemic, after school programs are still vital and provide critical services to children in our area. Both Eliseo and Roberto have ensured that can happen.
1. Is your organization still taking care of kids? How many?
Eliseo: Centro Cultural has been making sure to take care of not only our students, but their families as well. Our organization wants to make sure to provide families with help and resources.
Roberto (pictured right): We have been operating with a cap of 50 children. After moving online in the spring, we returned to in-person instruction in the fall and it has gone pretty well. It is a fairly large drop from our usual numbers of 140-150, though it has allowed us a smaller mentor to student ratio.
2. How has your program pivoted in this time of disruption?
Eliseo (pictured left): Luckily, we were able to run extremely successful online programs. We were able to pre-record lessons and upload them Monday through Thursday, and on Fridays we ran virtual presentations with industry professionals that our students really enjoyed.
Roberto: We have created a detailed safety protocol. Everyone must wear a mask, follow a hand washing schedule, staff sanitize the building throughout the day, only one child is permitted to use the restroom at a time, etc.
3. What changes have served you well?
Eliseo: I think that our organization's ability to adapt and problem solve has been amazing.
Roberto: The fact we have a smaller mentor to student ratio has been very helpful. We are eager for the day we can allow more students in, but for now the smaller ratio allows us to spend more one on one time with our kids. That has been an unexpected positive.
4. Do you have any parent/student interactions to share that have made you hopeful?
Eliseo: At the beginning of each week, during our summer program, students and parents would come to pick up materials for the upcoming lessons. One family made sure to document each activity to show how this became a great way to come together for some family time. That gave me a great amount of happiness and hope.
Roberto: Parents have shown me how they can really embrace the changes we’ve had to make. They are really dedicated to keeping everyone safe. We have a long-standing relationship with our parents and, with that, comes a high level of respect. Knowing they care so much about us all makes me hopeful.
OST Providers Discuss Concerns and Share Ideas
WCK OST Providers held their quarterly meeting on December 4th. Attendees shared updates and three lucky participants won a door prize in drawings for Pizza Schmizza gift certificates. Survey results on priorities for WCK activities, training, and topics for a parent speaker series were displayed. Providers prioritized Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and, not surprisingly, requested training in this area. Many attendees liked the idea of a book list and discussion group centered on racial issues. They would also like more training on behavioral issues. Desired topics for a parent speaker series included “How to support anxious kids” and “Tools to work with kids at home on their homework.”
In breakout sessions, providers discussed their current concerns and steps they've been taking to address issues unique to the pandemic. Many families face financial difficulties and need support. Kids K-2 have problems using computers and have needed individual help. In addition, teaching social/emotional learning is hard; how do you teach sharing when you can’t share?. Language translation other than Spanish is difficult to obtain but is needed to explain COVID requirements. Approaches that have been helpful include socio-emotional learning activities (see the WCK website for resources), having CARES money distributed by the County through the school districts with notices going to parents, and partnering with other organizations/agencies to get flu shots and food supplies. Some providers are planning to offer remedial learning during the summer to help kids catch up.
The group was interested in more opportunities for sharing and grant collaborations. They also liked the idea of having a Facebook group to share ideas and resources. WCK will set up a Facebook group and send out information on the DEI resources. The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for Friday, February 5th at noon.
Wrapping It Up and Going Forward
As we wrap up 2020 and put a bow on it, we recognize it may not be the prettiest package but we have added some sparkle to the finished result and are proud of what WCK has accomplished. Here are some highlights:
- Our strategic plan was revised to address changes due to the crisis
- Training for providers transitioned to online
- Partnered with Clackamas Parenting Together for a media presentation on FaceBook
- Partnered with CCR&R and offered a credited training on “Listening”
- Presented a 3-day “Expo” open house for providers and parents/guardians
- Organized a virtual Gala featuring Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici and Senator Jeff Merkley
- Presented an End of Year Appeal and Online Auction
- Redesigned the WCK website
- Offered “Resources” for providers and parents/guardians in the eNewsletter and on the WCK website
- Held four quarterly meetings for OST providers to network and share information
- Kept you informed about programs and opportunities for kids through our monthly eNewsletter
- Received a two-year grant from Meyer Memorial Trust to increase capacity and strengthen our ability to foster educational equity
- Established links to the Washington County Early Learning Council, the Juvenile Crime Prevention Advisory Committee, and Thrives
- Collaborated with the Friends of Washington County Kids [501(c)(4)] to propose an initiative that would provide support to increase access to OST programs
In 2021 we are planning to add more useful activities based on input from our OST partners:
- Prioritizing implementation of activities with an emphasis on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
- Setting up a DEI book discussion group and resources
- Establishing a Facebook group for providers to exchange ideas, resources, and opportunities
- Offering training opportunities on topics that matter to providers and staff
- Organizing a speaker program for parents/guardians
- Developing stronger partnerships with providers and funding partners to support coordination of activities
We are grateful for the support you have given us in the past and welcome your input and involvement in our future activities. I want to extend a special thanks to our donors, our board and steering committee members, to Briana Ellenberger and Michael Coiner for newsletter articles, and Adam Sievers for social media postings, to Shari Getz for her help in 2020 and for growing into an expanded role in 2021, and to our 2020 interns, Kara Wood and Brian Aiken, for contributing to WCK's successful year.
We continue to be dedicated to increasing access to quality activities for kids during non-school time. It is imperative that we continue to follow this path for “Our Community, Our Kids, Our Future!”
Katie Riley, WCK President
WCK Newsletter editor: Shari Getz