A virtual Whole School, Whole Child Approach
Our holistic approach equips AmeriCorps members to think about student learning as something that happens both inside and outside of a classroom. They understand that education is not just about instruction, but rather that academic, social and emotional growth are intertwined and happen together, through relationships and community.
I am greatly inspired by the way AmeriCorps members continue to make a difference for their students through distance learning and virtual service, but not surprised by their energy and passion for showing up for students. Now, working alongside our partners, we seek to channel this energy and passion into City Year’s efforts to collaborate with schools to support students grappling with learning loss and lapses in critical relationships.
We know that the pandemic will only continue to exacerbate the existing systemic inequities that disproportionately impact Black, Latinx and other students of color we serve. If we’re serious about advancing educational equity so every student has access to positive learning environments, we will have to do more, think creatively, and elevate student voice to help all children recover and thrive in our new reality.
Looking ahead to this fall
As we look to the fall, our desire to listen to young people and understand their needs is even more heightened. While we don’t have all of the answers, City Year and our partners will be ready to ramp up our support in schools and online in service of addressing student needs, including anxiety, trauma, economic uncertainty, learning loss and lapsed relationships. Working on healing, rebuilding connections and partnering with educators to create learning environments and employ instructional strategies that support student academic recovery and social-emotional development will also be key.
At a high level, we plan to support our new and returning AmeriCorps members so they can:
- Help schools renew and celebrate school community by maintaining consistent routines and feelings of belonging
- Provide trauma-sensitive supports to students by listening, building resilience and helping students make meaning of what they have experienced this spring
- Promote academic recovery efforts to address additional learning loss through one-on-one academic interventions and tutoring
- Advance school health and safety response protocols
Prioritizing student voice through Social Emotional Learning (SEL)
City Year was founded on a belief in the power of young people. We must prioritize student voice in our efforts to respond to the pandemic. No matter what the start of the school year looks like, it’s important to honor what students have learned and experienced while schools were closed.
Some young people will have grappled with loss or loneliness, others with personal growth in newfound independence or discovering a hidden talent. As near-peer Student Success Coaches—mature enough to offer guidance and support, yet young enough to relate to students’ perspectives—City Year AmeriCorps members are uniquely positioned in schools to tap into those feelings and experiences, whatever they may be.
We want your ideas and feedback: reimagining the future of school supports
City Year is committed to learning from the communities we serve and the partners with which we collaborate. We welcome your feedback, ideas and questions to help reimagine the future of our student-level practice in a post-pandemic environment.
Some questions with which we are grappling are:
- How can we learn from the challenges and bright spots of virtual and distance learning that students experienced?
- What shifts, if any, should we make to ensure AmeriCorps members are great partners to teachers and focused on the most critical needs of students and schools?
- What is the right way to balance supporting the social-emotional needs of students, AmeriCorps members and teachers with the academic recovery greatly needed to keep students on track?
We would love to hear your ideas and experiences. You can let us know by sending a message on Twitter to @CityYear, sending a note to firstname.lastname@example.org, or reaching out to an Executive Director in your local area.
Much has changed and will continue to change, but we and our partners are as committed as ever to our partnership with public schools and communities to create more equitable, engaging, joyful and relevant learning environments where all students can build on their strengths, achieve their goals and thrive.
Stephanie Wu is City Year’s Chief Impact Officer and leads the design, execution and evaluation of City Year’s Whole School, Whole Child services. As a founding staff member of City Year, she has overseen the development and scaling of City Year’s youth development practices that remain foundational to City Year’s work in schools and communities across the country.