This week, I wanted you to get to know Da’Lana Walker and the amazing work she does running our After School Program. For over 2 years, this program has been an unsung hero at the Corps, but has had a major impact on thousands of children’s lives. Over the last year, the whole team has shown leadership, grace under pressure, and a positive spirit that has inspired me and so many others. Enjoy! – Wendy Butts, CEO
On March 16th, 2020, the After-School Program Management Team had no idea we would need to create virtual platforms and processes to continue servicing the thousands of children and their families we work with on 17 LAUSD campuses beyond the two weeks we thought the stay-at-home order would be enforced. One hundred staff did what educators do and adapted. We worked closely together to plan and design activities in preparation to return to campus by the end of the month.
Like all of you, we quickly learned that wasn’t going to happen. Immediately, school-level planning groups were formed to figure out how we could stay in touch with our families and support them academically. Our partners at LAUSD’s Beyond the Bell Branch right away staffed meal distribution sites serving millions of meals, and LA 84 provided sports equipment encouraging healthy active play for students while at home. The Corps understood the need, accepted the challenge, and began recording videos to let students know they were in our thoughts and to provide some normalcy through quick yoga, crafts, sports, and outdoor meditations.
Pivoting into Fall 2020, staff were taught how to use teaching platforms like Class Dojo, Schoology and Zoom and began connecting with their principals and teachers to understand how we would be best utilized. As a parent myself, I knew our team needed to be careful not to add more stress to already overwhelmed families. Staff did an awesome job creating fun and engaging synchronous learning opportunities that provided relief for students who had just spent four-six hours in virtual classes.
Virtual Clubs offered homework help, STEAM activities, crafts, dance and cheer, e-sports, and fitness opportunities. We started new programs like taking virtual field trips to places across the globe; Snap the Gap, in partnership with UC Davis, to empower, excite, encourage, and engage girls in STEM topics, with the aim of closing the gender gap in these fields; the Tobacco-Use Prevention Education program to reduce youth tobacco use by empowering students to make healthful decisions; and, the Young Producers Group which offered a variety of distance learning options to keep students making music individually or in school teams.
Coming soon, our Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge sponsored by Union Bank will teach middle school and high school students the entrepreneurial mindset alongside traditional small business startups. Student groups will create business plans and develop a marketing pitch. They will compete to win seed money to help start their own business.
As we mark a full year of being in the pandemic, education has shifted in many ways to become a more equitable, accessible, and emotionally safe place for our students. The learning community is currently living in a major moment and our ASP staff have risen to the occasion! Each one has demonstrated resiliency and become integral in helping students and their families thrive and be successful during this time.
Sr. Director, After School Program