When schools moved from classrooms to a virtual platform in homes at the onset of the COVID pandemic, a large learning gap immediately opened and exposed the inequities of low-income and minority students K through 12. The disparities in household resources for effective distance learning are not only technological, but revolve around financial stability, the level of support that a student can receive from family members, and where else they have resources, just a few to address.
Maria (name changed for anonymity) is an 8th grade student in Watsonville. She lives with her mom and two younger siblings. Since SIP in March she has been the primary caretaker of both siblings at home while mom is at work every day. She stopped attending classes last semester without WiFi or an understanding of how to use a computer for school. Her younger brother stopped attending school. Maria wanted to go to school, and excel in her schoolwork but in a low-income household with a Spanish speaking single parent who does not use a computer, Maria had no choice but to focus more on chores and childcare, her education no longer a priority.
I would like to welcome our Donors, Community Partners, Volunteers, and all our followers to the 2020-2021 school year!
Youth N.O.W. is here. We are ready for students such as Maria!
After a smaller but very successful summer program our dedicated Youth N.O.W. staff are back ready to support our youth in Watsonville and South County with the difficulties that have come up with the implementation of distance learning. Our commitment is stronger than ever to address the educational inequities and barriers that students in vulnerable populations face. Youth N.O.W. is working to provide as many students as possible a caring mentor/tutor to meet with students twice a week to keep up with their classes and homework. There is no cost!
With PVUSD having provided many valuable resources to ensure students are prepared for the distance learning format (a Chromebook, hotspot, and a “Beginning of School Launch Kit”), our organization is committed to being available in the Out of School Time to support students staying on top of their assignments, to study for tests, not missing school, addressing loss of learning, and to motivate and mentor our youth through this time that can bring with it anxiety, lack of motivation and mental health challenges. We are here for our low-income families, youth in the foster care system, families in agriculture, and students that are falling behind or through the cracks.
Youth N.O.W. has changed programming for this semester to provide individualized tutoring virtually to approximately 75% of our students while by appointment meeting 1:1 with the remainder of the students in person in an outdoor environment, socially distanced, and in masks to ensure the safety of students and staff at all times.
Valuing our enrichments that we used to provide, every other Saturday students and families may sign up to participate in a small group activity outdoors: art, bike riding, hiking within CDC guidelines. Youth N.O.W. will also provide virtual monthly workshops along with community partners, and support students on their initial steps to college with career guidance and college readiness on an individualized basis.
This is a challenging time but we have much to be grateful and proud of:
- Big or small, additional Covid Funding from our funders and donors in the past few months has truly been the difference for us to pivot to accommodate virtual tutoring and on site programming.
- We were prepared and ready with additional staffing to meet CDC guidelines of two stable groups, and have curriculum for a truly impactful Summer Session for 25 students that included part day academics, and time to have fun on, and off site.
- 70 students are already signed up with twice weekly academic assistance and we are preparing for the next phase to increase enrollment
- Generous funding has been given to Youth N.O.W. designated to support the creation of an outdoor tutoring space making the on-site tutoring possible with additional tutors, and has addressed the improvement of the technology resources required that will allow us to safely assist students
- Youth N.O.W. has a morning pod established to primarily assist students that are home without support by providing a trained staff tutor, supervision and meals through the morning school day
- Youth N.O.W. has volunteers from the community, Volunteermatch and the Volunteer Center, Monte Vista Christian School National Honor Society, Twin Lakes Church, CSUMB, UCSC and CSU signing up to assist youth through virtual tutoring. (We will be honored for our commitment to volunteerism at the upcoming “Be the Difference” Awards and it is truly our volunteers that are making the difference for us showing up to assist our youth)
- Youth N.O.W. is entering the second year under United Way in the community impact project United4Youth along with our partners to create measurable and meaningful impact in the lives of our youth in the Watsonville community
Without question, this is an unusual public-health crisis for everyone. The pandemic has greatly impacted all of our lives and all children, creating mental distress due to the disruptions of the closure of schools, maintaining social and physical distancing and not being able to do routine activities. However this is not an equal opportunity event. Longstanding inequities have placed marginalized and minoritized communities at an increased risk of severe outcomes from COVID. Since we all play a role in acknowledging and addressing inequities, with a spotlight now shining on some of the gaps, we can and must target our efforts on them. The troubling fact is that these gaps and these inequities have been here all along and even when this pandemic is over we need to take our lessons and learn from them.
I am grateful for all of you that have been called to action to support the need we have here in our own community whether through funding, volunteerism or advocating for change……for any of the issues that are now sitting front and center for us to address head on.
Whatever the cause is that resonates with you, right now is the time to put in your full effort. For Youth N.O.W., it is being here to work on supporting our youth to thrive and be resilient and go on to be our successful adults of tomorrow.
Youth N.O.W. Executive Director