Every aspect of community life has been disrupted, from the economy to the family. Disruptions on multiple fronts have wreaked havoc with young people’s rhythms, relationships and responsibilities. Coordinated responses are desperately needed, especially among the people, places, and spaces where young people spend their time.
One of the advantages of all of us being virtual is that we are getting really good at “warm welcomes” — ways to bring participants into a shared space with a quick exercise that asks them to think quickly and share. I loved this one, used yesterday to kick off the second day of rich discussions with members and friends of CASEL’s Collaborating States Initiative.
With youth development programs suddenly shifting to virtual delivery, there is a need to consider what program elements and staff practices are critical to foster relationships and create experiences that support the development of young people in these spaces.
Supports for quality improvement grow in importance the longer that virtual offerings remain a fixture of youth programs. Virtual programming seems likely to be with us into the next school year due to uncertainty around COVID-19-related public health guidelines, and already programs are seeing potential benefits of continuing virtual programs to support their mission.
Our current system is limiting youth potential. There are four new COVID-19 induced realities that every organization and every adult is dealing with: 1) the inadequacy of current applications of and uses of virtual platforms, even when available, for virtual-only academic instruction, 2) the heightened visibility and exacerbation of many different kinds of inequities such as health, emotional wellness, family resources, food and housing insecurity (within and across families, schools, communities), 3) the certainty of traumatic effects (associated with the virus, compounded by the closings, the separations and losses, the disconnection from important communities in young people’s lives), and 4) the uncertainty of re-openings (schools, child and youth development programs, workplaces, and the economy).
It’s springtime, yet rather than preparing for end-of-year assessments, graduation, prom, and summer school, educators and school personnel, along with community organizations and families, are grappling with the challenges of facilitating learning, keeping young people safe, and supporting their overall well-being when “out-of-school time is all the time.” As educators try to find stop-gap measures to make learning accessible to every student, what are the most effective ways to engage and empower our adolescents, particularly in high school and beyond, so that they are equipped to manage change and difficulty?
Opportunities to support young people’s learning and development are normally shared and spread across various spaces, places, and delivery modes in schools, community organizations, and families. But a month ago, most of those places were abruptly shut down, thrusting families into the lead coordinating role. Learning and development didn’t stop – these are natural human processes. But the unevenness of supports became a lot more apparent, even within extended families.