Flint, MI–COVID-19 is not only changing the typical school day, it is also complicating summer and after school programs.
Many in the Flint community rely on after school and Summer programs for things like education advancement, nutritional education, and leadership training. However, with COVID shutting down these organizations some parents and youth alike are feeling worried.
“It’s been really hard on my daughter,” Reesa Parker said. Her daughter takes part in the Genesee Intermediate School District’s 21st century Community Learning Centers program—a program she said her daughter loves.
“She absolutely loves it, she’s met new friends, and the teachers are fantastic,” Parker said. “There’s a lot of kids in our district that don’t get the attention that they need at home and its great there’s a program that has somewhere for the kids to go instead of sitting at home.”
Programs like these provide childcare options for parents in the summertime, as well as meals and education. However, with the pandemic these services are now either on hold or held remotely.
The GISD program, for example, is still doing hour-long zoom calls with after school teachers, along with virtual lessons on activities like poetry, yoga, and arts and crafts.
Another program learning to adjust is the Boy’s & Girl’s Club of Greater Flint. The club typically operates a five-day-a-week summer program out of two locations in Flint. During the program they do one-on-one literacy tutoring and focus on academic success, community service, healthy lifestyles, and summer learning loss prevention programs.
“It gives kids access to a safe place to be social during summer… and gets them ready to hit the ground running,” said Tauzzari Robinson, CEO of the organization.
“COVID has created a new playing field,” Tauzzari said. “We’re taking this time to create some amazing plans.”
Another program affected by COVID-19 is the YMCA’s Safe Places, a community-based summer and after school program for kids’ kindergarten through twelfth grade. The program provides free activities to community members.
“During the summer we have our Power Scholars program, and what we found was students gained back two to three months in math and reading,” Moses Bingham the Senior Program Director at the YMCA of Greater Flint, said. “This is a viable program that the community needs.”
The YMCA will be rolling out a virtual program at the end of the school year for the time being and are focusing on how to keep serving meals to the community. Bingham said that they serve close to 600 meals a day to Safe Places sites like community centers and apartment complexes.
Some problems still exist for kids who are forced to find education remotely.
“We ask kids (at the food hand-out sites) ‘How was school today’ and some kids say, ‘I didn’t go to school today’” Bingham said, “meaning they don’t have internet access or access to enriching activities.”
Programs like the Boys & Girl’s Club and the YMCA are evolving to be there for Flint youth and parents like Belcher and Parker. The Boy’s and Girl’s Club has recently launched a virtual program, now Monday through Friday from 3-6 p.m. where kids can still engage in social activities and gain enrichment whether they are a member or not.
“We’d love to have more kids participate and want to continue to serve kids and just give them a break from being cooped up in the house and everything that’s going on” Robinson said.
Jaquelyn Belcher is the parent of two girls who both take part in after school and summer programs through the GISD. The summer programs, she said, have had a big impact on her daughters over the past eight years they’ve been participating.
“I know that it has made a huge impact on her want and need to do good in school, and it helped her focus and brought her out of her shell. I love everyone who’s a part of the program,” she said. “Had they not been in her life and had she not done this I’m not sure who’d she be.”
The girls continue to participate now virtually, doing activities such as poetry, yoga, and arts and crafts.
Similarly, the YMCA’s Safe Places is also is creating a virtual program to help reach their students. “We’re working with our power scholars’ partners to create a platform that can reach multiple audiences, whether you have access to a landline or internet access, we want to welcome them to the academic arena”.
While Belcher said, she’s looking forward to the day when her daughter can return physically to the programs, she said she’s willing to wait.
“The sound of summer programs once everything’s lifted doesn’t sound bad, and my daughter’s gunning for it as well, but I just want it to be safe for everyone, and if not then maybe next year,” she said.