By Sam Piha
There is a lot of discussion and debate about how and when to re-open schools and youth programs. For youth programs that are located within schools, it is important that afterschool leaders stay abreast of the current thinking on this topic and ensure that any re-opening encompasses youth development values. Because the pandemic situation is very fluid, ideas about re-opening schools are very dynamic.
“As you prepare to welcome students and adults back to school, you face the layered impact of schools closures, the pandemic, racial inequities amplified by nationwide mobilization, and more.”
-CASEL Newsletter, 7/9/20
The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has released a roadmap for re-opening schools. CASEL collaborated with over 40 leading organizations in developing 4 critical practices:
"As we sit down and really try to figure out what is going to be a long haul of reopening slowly...we're going to need such a different approach to the traditional 'show up and sit in your seat.' We need all partners at the table together."
-Karen Pittman, President & CEO, Forum for Youth Investment
Below we have offered a link to this entire report as well as some other resources. (Because the plans for re-opening is developed locally, it is important that afterschool leaders track their local plans.)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...
By Guest Blogger Dr. Deborah Moroney, AIR
Last summer was pretty great. My 13-year-old son took a math class and attended a soccer camp at the local high school, led by the high school team players. My younger son, then age 12, worked stage crew on a youth-led production. Then, in July and August, they went to their favorite place on earth, a YMCA camp in northern Michigan, where they forged lifelong friendships. As the world continues to experience the coronavirus pandemic, this summer will likely be very different, and not just for my children.
As a researcher who has studied out-of-school time experiences, I know just how important these opportunities are for my children and children and youth around the country. Summer is a great time for children and youth to develop and explore their interests—and have fun.
Summertime experiences usually include both structured and unstructured time for learning and development. Structured opportunities include day and residential camps, such as district-led summer learning programs, and specialty camps like the ones offered by the Serious Fun Children’s Network. Children and youth also participate in programs on nature and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); summer school, where they catch up on or dive deeper into core subjects; and sports and recreation programs for physical activities. For older youth, Summer Youth Employment Programs provide practical experience that they can draw on as adults.
In a typical summer, the demand for structured summertime experiences far outweighs the availability. For youth who live in poverty and/or in rural areas, these issues of access are even greater. This year, when the coronavirus has had a significant effect on our daily lives, summertime programming is a question mark both for families and program providers.
Whether summertime programs can open and operate this summer depends on where they are located, the policies of their parent organizations, and their budgets, which dictate not only what they can offer but also their staffing and other operational necessities. Seasonal hiring by organizations operating summertime programs is risky at best this year.
Many organizations offering summertime programming are dependent on fees or per-participant reimbursements and have been experiencing financial uncertainty during this time. Some organizations have faced the challenge of having to keep select programs open for children of essential workers, while also furloughing significant numbers of staff. Public agencies’ budgets are also tight, and many major jurisdictions have proposed funding cuts to Summer Youth Employment Programs. One bright spot is that corporate sector philanthropic investors—like JP Morgan Chase, a longtime supporter of summer youth employment programs--remain committed financially to quality summertime offerings.
Support and Resources for Summertime Program Providers
In the midst of these challenges and the general flux of what this summer might be like across the country, here are some resources for those who intend to provide summertime programs in-person, online, or in a digital format.
Dr. Deborah Moroney is the Managing Director, American Institutes of Research (AIR). She specializes in bridging research and practice, having worked as a staff member for out-of-school programs early in her career. She's written practitioner and organizational guides; co-authored the fourth edition of “Beyond the Bell®, A Toolkit for Creating High-Quality Afterschool and Expanded Learning Programs,” a seminal afterschool resource; and co-edited Creating Safe, Equitable, Engaging Schools: A Comprehensive, Evidence-Based Approach to Supporting Students and Social and Emotional Learning in Out-of-School Time Foundations and Futures. Presently, Dr. Moroney serves as the principal investigator on national studies of afterschool initiatives.
By Sam Piha
With the COVID-19 restrictions, we knew that Summer programs would be heavily effected. One organization quickly responded with new innovations to adapt their Summer program to a virtual format. We interviewed the Executive Director of Edventure More (EDMO), Eduardo Caballero, to ask about this. His responses are below. (Note: Camp EDMO was featured in our report entitled, “Promoting SEL and Character Skills in Expanded Learning Programs.”)
Q: Can you provide us with some background information on Camp EDMO?
A: Edventure More (EDMO) is a non-profit organization on a mission to make equitable, high-quality learning programs accessible to all communities in order to cultivate curious, courageous and kind humans everywhere. We collaborate with the Education Directors from museums like the California Academy of Sciences and the Greater Good Science Center of UC Berkeley in the design of our curriculum. Our flagship program for 17 years has been Camp EDMO, a STEAM & SEL-focused summer day camp for Pre-K-8th kids. Last summer we served nearly 10,000 kids across 32 locations spanning eight counties in Northern California.
Q: Because face-to-face youth programs are impeded by the COVID-19 epidemic, what innovations did you introduce to address this challenge?
A: On Friday, March 13, 2020, with schools shutting down, kids’ learning suddenly thrust onto parents, and dark clouds forming over summer, we gathered our team and posed the design challenge of a lifetime to them: Can we create a live, interactive virtual camp experience that feels as close to the real thing as possible? Oh, and can we do it in a week? Four days later, the team came back and said, “Yes we can.” By Friday, March 20, exactly one week later, we opened enrollment for a free pilot version of an online camp. By Monday, March 23, we had over 500 kids registered with 1,023 waitlist spots.
One of the biggest challenges in flipping our STEAM & SEL programs to the virtual space was designing for multiple home environments. At our in-person camps, we controlled everything about the learning environment. We knew the size of the school classrooms, access to outdoor space, how much material to order, what type of technology to rent or buy, etc. Now, we suddenly had to design a curriculum flexible enough to adjust for a child living in a one bedroom apartment or a three bedroom home with a yard. We had to design a technology curriculum for kids who had access to Mac or PC computers, and those who only had a smartphone or a district-provided Chromebook. We also had to adapt all the things that made camp fun to the online space - rally games, skits, songs, gratitude snaps, dress up days, Friday Pie Days all of it! Our team learned the best way to use Zoom features, tested projects, classroom management techniques and adapted to parent feedback.
Q: How did you price an online Summer program in a way that does not create more inequity in education?
A: In this crisis, we knew parents would be losing their jobs daily and wouldn’t be able to wait months or at best, weeks, to be “approved” for financial aid. The old system of financial aid applications was not going to work. Parents were going to need help immediately and we did not even have the staff to review applications. Did I mention we were forced to lay off 85% of our full-time staff in the middle of that design challenge? Even so, we did not want to create a platform that would only serve people who could afford $15-20 per hour.
Our solution to this design challenge is our biggest innovation to date - Honor System Pricing. It’s a system as old as humanity, yet revolutionary for the times. Here’s how it works in practice. We offer our online Drop-in sessions at $15/hour and our week-long Half/Full-Day Camps at $12/hour. We encourage families who can afford more, to donate. We encourage families who need financial support to apply an Honor Code. You can see what it looks like here.
Our biggest innovation is that equity in education is happening. This new model flips old power paradigms on their heads. The old system is that you, the customer, give us, the organization, money. In turn, we give you a service. The relationship is purely transactional. We, the company, will also make you feel good about your decision by touting that we give financial aid. We decide who is worthy of financial aid. Out of fear of someone abusing our goodwill, we create an elaborate system of financial aid. If you are an applicant, you must first adhere to a strict set of qualification requirements. Then you must fill out an application asking for your income, a teacher recommendation and personal stories to demonstrate that you are more deserving than another poor soul who is also applying. Then while you are experiencing financial hardship, you must wait weeks or months for us to “approve you.” Oh, and guess what? You’re going to have to do this process over and over again to get school lunch, after school programs, food stamps, dance classes or anything else you want to give your child. Have you ever seen the movie, Parasite? The old system is very similar. Poor people competing with each other for the benevolence of the rich over and over and over again. We actually kept our old system up so others can learn from our mistakes.
Our Honor System Pricing model is revolutionary in that we, the organization, have no power. The power is with the people. Parents have the power to make sure their child and ALL children get a high-quality education. EDMO® does not give scholarships or financial aid. We only create a space for families to stand in their values. Rather than a transactional relationship, we create a transformational relationship with our families. Parents decide if they enroll at our regular price or even donate more. Parents decide if they need financial help. Parents decide if a sustainable model of education will survive. This new economic system is based not on fear, but on human dignity, trust and love.
Q: In developing a “virtual” version of Summer camp, what is lost and what is gained?
A: What is lost in our new online model is the old system of power and inequity. What is gained is the ability for any child from every socio-economic background, to learn, collaborate and connect with each other instantaneously. A child from East Oakland, California can instantly go to camp with a child from Westford, Connecticut.
What is gained is the potential to start addressing the root causes of implicit bias and racism. What is gained is parents becoming a force for equity and the bridging of the digital divide. What is gained is a new model of education that can fill the learning day gaps for every child once school partially reopens in the Fall.
The capacity to create real meaningful change is boundless. As of the week of June 8th we’ve had kids logging on to our platform from 43 different states and 7 countries including Singapore, Domincan Republic, Japan, Puerto Rico, Canada, Kuwait and India.
What is gained is the potential for nationwide and worldwide equity in education.
Eduardo Caballero is Executive Director of Edventure More. In addition, Eduardo has been active on the SF Department of Children & Youth’s Summer Work Group, The Big Lift collaborative’s Inspiring Summers Workgroup in the Peninsula, the Marin Promise in Marin County and the Oakland Summer Learning Network. He has also represented the Bay Area at summer funding lobbying events at the state capitol through CalSAC. Eduardo contributes to the field as a speaker at local and national summer and afterschool conferences. He has completed the Leadership for Equity & Opportunity (LEO) learning-in-action program and is learning to be a better equity ally every day.
By Guest Blogger Julee Brooks, Woodcraft Rangers
(Note: To read my full article, click here.)
To me, publicly-funded afterschool programs work to bridge gaps in an inequitable education system, supplementing with quality programs and building power among young people. Afterschool programs empower youth, nurture young talent, even level the playing field, but despite doing this important work daily, the painful truth is that conditions of schools, neighborhoods, and economies just never change.
Trying to rectify inequities in an inherently inequitable system is a Sisyphean task until there is change in the systems themselves. So, we find ourselves, though well-intended, propping up a system that still doesn’t equitably serve all the people in this country. As agency leaders, we are witness to, and work daily against, the pressures, politics and punishments of this inadequate system. We recognize our own vulnerability in the face of scarcity, and we stand on the thin edge of demanding change while fiercely gripping the ground beneath us.
With municipal budget season upon us, agency leaders must stand in solidarity with racial justice movement leaders and take swift action. The values shift in this moment is palpable and budgets are values. But how? With a coalition of 17 afterschool agencies here in Los Angeles, so far, this is what we have done or have learned. (See below for a full list of agencies.)
TAKE DIRECTION FROM ORGANIZERS
With the swell of public support, change will be the result of decades of the tireless efforts and sophisticated strategies of Black leaders. We are not here to co-opt but to contribute to ensure codified change in policy that will deliver greater investments to historically under resourced communities — in education and housing and healthcare, and with them, a more equitable society. If you aren’t connected to racial justice movement leaders already, read, listen, follow. Find your Black Lives Matter chapter or organizations like LA Voice, Community Coalition and the People’s Budget LA. And Listen.
IDENTIFY YOUR ASSETS
Understand the goals and identify the assets you have to forward them. In our initial BLM solidarity statement to staff, we asked our Woodcraft Rangers team what actions they wanted from the organization. A site coordinator responded:
“I know very recently we were part of an organized coalition of groups advocating for after-school funding…The lack of adequate funding for social programs in under-privileged neighborhoods is exactly the kind of racial injustice these protests are all about. Given our connections within the city, we have a unique opportunity to catalyze meaningful change through a powerful unified demand for justice and reform.”
My work is always defined by those closest to the work, and I respected him calling me in. Afterschool organizations have valuable assets -- strength of parent, youth and staff voices; privileged access to policy makers and funders; data illustrating success – and we must be ready to leverage them. We began with political pressure.
ANSWER THE CALL
The next day, I invited a few colleagues to test their willingness to engage in budget reform and its messiness. Leaders, especially white leaders like myself, need to acknowledge seeking perfection or “handling the politics” is often in service to the system itself, not to those we are charged to serve.
It is budget season in America and the clock is ticking. The next day, I saw a call to action about People’s Budget LA, calling for public comments at the upcoming LA City Council Budget Committee meeting. It gave us a platform, a deadline and a tactic all in one.
HONE YOUR MESSAGE
Using the language of organizers is important. However, the frame is easy for afterschool as BLM advocates for an aligned approach of nurturing communities and advocates are vocal that afterschool programs make communities safer. This includes Defund the Police. Potentially uncomfortable, these words are precise and intentional. Using them shows solidarity, against brutality and for community investment.
BUILD A COALITION
Within 48 hours, 16 organizations had joined mine to sign onto the letter. With collective strength, leaders didn’t fear political fallout individually, but stood together. A couple of organizations declined deeming the letter “too political”. Frankly, this moment requires moral courage, and I am proud to stand with so many exhibiting it.
TURN UP THE VOLUME
The letter made our case, opened the door and framed the conversation in solidarity. While the next steps are unfolding, it is imperative for leaders who hold positional power, especially white leaders, to push hard, with community organizers who have pushed for so long.
We must continue to pressure decision-makers and the public — a full-court press that, as our staff member pointed out so powerfully, we do when our inadequate dollars to support communities are at stake. Why wouldn’t we do it when lives are at stake? This is a moment of reckoning. For our society where Black lives have not mattered, for systems that have not served Black and Brown children, for leaders who have not been willing to risk their own comfort for the liberation of others.
I, for one, am committed to doing the continual soul-searching this moment requires. To evaluating how I am complicit in upholding systems that oppress. To evolving my understanding of what solidarity means. To taking every next action that is required because Black Lives Matter. I firmly believe that until there is racial justice in this country, we cannot deliver on the promises, no matter how well-intended, we make to the youth we serve.
Afterschool leaders, I am calling you in to join me.
Julee Brooks is the CEO of Woodcraft Rangers, that has served Los Angeles youth since 1922 and currently provides afterschool programs to over 15,000 young people annually. She brings 20 years of experience in service to youth in youth development, arts education and human services. She is a Kentucky native and mother of two boys.
List of Supporting Agencies: Woodcraft Rangers, After-School All-Stars Los Angeles, LA’s Best Afterschool Enrichment, Heart of Los Angeles Youth, Los Angeles Education Partnership, The Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health, TXT: Teens Exploring Technology, arc, Para los Ninos, Inner-City Arts, EduCare Foundation, Boys and Girls Clubs of Carson, GAP:Gang Alternative Program, LACER Afterschool Programs, A World Fit for Kids, KYDS, and Team Prime Time Afterschool Programs.
Sam Piha is the founder and principal of Temescal Associates, a consulting group dedicated to building the capacity of leaders and organizations in education and youth development.