This summer, CYC sat down with students who left school early to listen and learn from their experiences. Their insights were invaluable as we as an organization—and, going wider, as the educational sector—begin the work of rebuilding after COVID-19.
COVID-19 Shined a Light on the Inequities that Exist. “…the school closures caused by COVID-19 have additional aspects of trauma to students, loss of resources, and loss of opportunity to learn that go well beyond a traditional summer break for many families.” (The COVID Slide, Dr. Megan Kuhfeld and Dr. Beth Tarasawa)
When Students Benefit, Families Do Too. “One student and I are working on Blending Words and Phoneme Blending. They said they liked working with me and that they go home and teach their Dad how to read using the same interventions we do. They show him words and have him blend sounds together just like I have them do in class! The students are taking in what I am teaching them and bringing it home to their families. ” Colorado Reading Corps tutor
It Can Take Just One Person. “I reached out to one student who was 20 years old and had not graduated. He knew he had less than a year to earn his GED through DPS. He chose to return to the program at North Engagement Center, and he told me he was glad I reached out because he had given up. Sometimes all it takes is one person and one call to change someone’s course. I’m so proud of his perseverance!” CYC Reengagement Specialist
The Pandemic Will Have a Lasting Impact on Students’ Ability to Engage. Fear and anxiety about the pandemic—coupled with uncertainty about the future—can be disruptive to a student’s ability to come to school ready to learn. One-on-one check ins and meetings can act as a powerful buffer against the adverse effects of trauma by helping to establish a safe and supportive environment for learning.
We’ve Adapted to Meet Different Needs. CYC launched the Student Engagement Corps AmeriCorps program this fall in response to the impact that COVID-19 has had on education. Nearly 1,500 students have already been helped in 2020 through tutoring, access to technology, and so much more.
Education is Being Reimagined. The massive efforts in response to the shocks to education systems brought on by COVID-19 remind us that change is possible. Finding new ways to address the learning crisis and bring about solutions previously considered difficult to implement are on the horizon, and CYC is proud to partner in this work.
Students are More Than Just Their Academic Records. “I try to create a picture of each student in context with their friends and families. For one student, this means looking at his artwork every week before we talk about academics. For others, I just allow a safe space to vent. The barriers these young people face involve family, friends, identity, and so much more. It is critical to address their challenges in context so that they can focus on education.” CYC Corps for a Change member
Young People are Courageous. “Timing is everything. I have one student who held onto my contact information for a full year before reaching out, because he was finally ready to get back into school. It takes a lot of courage to reach out for help, especially for this student who is over 18 and hasn’t been in school since 2018.” CYC Reengagement Specialist
An Extra Caring Adult in a Young Person’s Life Matters. Students who are learning remotely or in a hybrid model often feel disconnected from the teacher and/or content, and they tell us that asking for extra help has been difficult.
Students Are Resilient. “I see hope in the ways my students handle all the new changes. My students are very vigilant about wearing their masks, washing their hands, and keeping distance between us. Seeing young kids behaving so well in these chaotic times shows me that we as a society will get through this better and stronger than we were before.” Colorado Reading Corps member
Community Partnerships Matter. This year especially, AmeriCorps members serving with CYC are providing support not only to students, but to teachers and school staff as well. One school supervisor in Thornton expressed her gratitude for a having Corps for a Change member, “I am so thankful for Catherine’s participation in our school. We are facing some difficult times and she handles it with professionalism and a smile on her face. I am very thankful for her.”
Support Systems are Even More Important for Younger Students. According to Chalkbeat, participation dropped most among elementary students this fall, and kindergarteners showed the steepest declines (in one district from 84% in September to 56% in November). CYC’s Reading Corps program will continue to play a critical role in early literacy across Colorado.
Safety Matters. “About two-thirds of the students I work with identify as LGBTQ+, and their attendance varies greatly. Many of these students have a hard time engaging with school and their attendance is heavily impacted by
specific incidents (often involving other students). One of my students was being sexually harassed by another student and stopped attending that class as a result. We worked through advocacy strategies together and talked with his teacher. His attendance is consistent again following these conversations. Both he and other students in similar situations are incredibly smart and talented and just need a safe adult to support their progress, so it feels amazing to advocate for those who feel they have no one on their side.” CYC Corps for a Change member
Building a Pipeline of Educators is Critical. 99 AmeriCorps members are serving with CYC this year, and many will continue in the field of education. We’ve seen teachers, school administrators, counselors, and social workers come out of our past cohorts, and this year will be no different.
Isolation Shined a Light on the Importance of School Resources. “One young man was added to my caseload because of his inconsistent attendance. His reputation as ‘challenging’ preceded him. At age 17 with 9th grade credits, he’d experienced expulsion and a lack of connection with school. We’ve worked together all semester and he passed more classes than ever before this year. Recently, he told me he was overwhelmed and was having a hard time with remote learning from home because of all the distractions. I feel inspired by his self-advocacy. I placed him on the study hall list so that he had access to a quiet workspace at his high school. He’s doing better and has found that he’d very passionate about history.” Corps for a Change member
Learning Loss is Expected to Be Extreme and Long Lasting. It is suggested that 25% more students may fall below a baseline level of proficiency needed to participate effectively in society and future learning because of school closures. In the foundational years of education, the impact might be the strongest. CYC’s work in student reengagement, early literacy, and attendance seeks to dampen the impact of school closures on students in Colorado.
Education Is Not the Only Aspect of Students’ Lives Impacted by COVID-19. “I call families to see if there is assistance the school could provide: utilities, food, clothing, rent, etc. I talked to one father who had a list of needs, but rent was the most pertinent after being put on leave from his past job because of COVID-19. The next week I followed up and he was successfully able to receive rent assistance! Since then we have kept in contact every week. His 4th grader and 7th grader are attending school and doing great.” CYC Student Engagement Corps member
Early Support Makes a Difference. Nearly 100 children ages 3-5 are receiving additional support this year through our PreK expansion of the Colorado Reading Corps program.
2020 is the Year of Giving. During a year of uncertainty and fear, people are using generosity as an antidote to panic. Click here to donate!
- Big, passionate hearts are behind CYC’s work. Meet our team in this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzQ_HJraTBs