There were already numerous challenges for after-school programs even before the pandemic hit, but the COVID-19 crisis has made helping underserved youth an even bigger challenge. These children often deal with significant hardships like poverty, poor nutrition, delinquency or failure in academics, disproportionate incarceration, lack of employment opportunities, dangerous neighborhoods or locations, and difficulty in languages. When you factor in a global pandemic into these already egregious scenarios, helping these children in tangible ways becomes almost impossible.
Many studies have shown the importance of these activities to the development of these underserved kids and a massive demand for quality after-school programs in all neighborhoods and communities. Thankfully, there are many technological tools at our disposal, which can help lift the burden even a little. Here are some after-school activities to help low-income children in the time of COVID-19.
One of the key activities that community builders prioritized was vocational training. Children were trained in five main areas of learning: the arts, words or communications, sports, technology, and life coaching. In some cases, they are taught how to work in different industries like manufacturing various engineering feats, like oil-free compressors, coding, sewing, and other practical activities. These classes help low-income children find inspiration for their future and help them believe that they have a place in the world, no matter their background or where they come from.
A study that spanned two years found that these classes have resulted in multiple benefits for young people who attend these classes, thanks to the consistent and detailed interactions between the students and their teachers, whether they learn technical skills and new techniques or receiving encouragement, guidance, and even meaningful questions about their existence.
Distance learning support
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the massive gap between children of privilege and those who are not. There is a wide disparity between students in higher-income neighborhoods and those who come from lower-income ones. Fortunately, groups like Summerville YMCA are not giving up on extending help to students who need it. Last year, they launched several types of after-school care for students affected by the pandemic and those who did not have the means to acquire the technology and tools needed to excel in distance learning.
The group said that they launched the after-school care activities to help support the parents who needed to go back to work to put food on the table and for their children to have access to socialization, especially since online classes are not optimal for students’ mental health. And since health and safety are always a priority, they made sure to keep adult to student ratios on the lower side. As for helping low-income children with distance learning, the organization announced that they upgraded and enhanced WiFi capabilities to assist and support the kids and devices connected in their location.
Another group that is doing its part in helping disenfranchised kids is the Metanoia Youth Leadership Academy, which works hard to support students who are currently behind two or three grade levels due to the lack of access to technology. Many of their students also deal with major food insecurity and healthcare issues. To help their students, they partnered with people who wanted to mentor kids through online calls to help them with their reading and literacy.
Physical activity and healthy eating
Alliance for a Healthier Generation is at the forefront of disseminating free and evidence-based resources to help support the mental, social, physical, and emotional health of disenfranchised children and their parents or caregiver, which also include out-of-school time staff.
Some resources include PBS KIDS for Parents’ list of indoor activities that children can do to remain physically active at home. A YouTube fitness specialist named Joe Wicks also live streams a series called P.E. with Joe, which features various types of kid-friendly workouts. He launched this after realizing that distance learning doesn’t allow kids to attend P.E. classes that will encourage them to move. For nutritious eating, USDA ChooseMyPlate created a helpful list of pointers for healthy food planning during the pandemic, as well as cooking-based activities for kids aged 8 to 12. There are also nutrition-centered activities that every member of the family can take part in.
There are many disenfranchised youths in the country, and there are so many needs we can help meet. If you want to shape our future, invest in the holistic health of the next generation. Look for programs you can participate in. Not only will you change a life, but you can also help define the nation’s trajectory.