Community Partnership during COVID: Meeting the Needs of Students
In the midst of the many challenges of COVID, one bright spot for City Year has been the opportunity for creative partnerships to best serve students. One opportunity we’ve had is to partner with the AMIKO Youth Program at the Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) Center for New Americans, with several City Year corps members supporting AMIKO programming since the start of the school year. This partnership is fueled by our involvement in the Youth Enrichment Partnership, a collaborative effort to meet the needs of Manchester’s youth facilitated by the Granite United Way.
What is the AMIKO program?
The SNHU Center for New Americans, hosted in partnership with YWCA New Hampshire, launched in December of 2017 to better serve the needs of the New American community in Manchester, NH. The center welcomes anyone who enters, no matter their path to get there, and is a space where immigrant and refugee populations can gain access to education and support services.
One of the center’s initiatives is the AMIKO Youth Program, which has traditionally run as an after-school and vacation enrichment program for Manchester children providing soccer, art, music and social programming to participants through a number of community partnerships. In response to the Manchester School District’s remote learning Wednesdays during COVID, the AMIKO program expanded from after-school programming to being an in-person day program for English Language Learners who have faced greater challenges during remote learning.
Partnering with City Year
The AMIKO Youth Program is typically supported by SNHU student volunteers, but when SNHU was facing a fully remote student body, the program turned to City Year to fill in. “City Year New Hampshire has been an invaluable partner of the Center for New Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic,” shared Courtney Perron, Director at the Center for New Americans. “Launching an in-person day program for English Language Learners during the mostly-remote semester of Fall 2020 would not have been possible without the terrific corps members who embedded themselves within our AMIKO Youth program. Many of the City Year corps members were bilingual and/or came from diverse backgrounds, which made them a particularly good fit with our youth.”
The Joys of Serving at AMIKO
A day at AMIKO is filled with engaging programming ranging from active play for students at the park, language arts and STEAM lessons, as well as time for art and music. While volunteering at AMIKO, our City Year members use many of the same skills that they bring to their classrooms daily like leading group activities and working one-on-one with students, while building powerful relationships with them. Sarah Wu (ACM), shares “I love getting to work with the students and helping them learn English in fun and innovative ways. Most of the students in this program are learning English as a second language, so one way I help my students immerse themselves is through geeking out about shows such as The Flash that they’ve also watched at home. Just being an adult figure in their lives who is willing to joke around and is patient with any English mistakes that they might make is a huge part of improving their confidence in speaking.”
On the other hand, our corps members have also enjoyed how serving at AMIKO differs from their daily service. Charlie Rogers (ACM) shares “In my daily service I’m working with eighth graders, so it’s been fun and very different working with younger students here”. Kate Bliven (ACM) adds “the dynamic at AMIKO is more high energy and fast paced than school service. I have a lot of fun leading activities and laughing with the kids. As much as they’ve learned during their time with the program, I’ve learned just as much, including some Swahili vocabulary and lots of patience!” There’s plenty of joy and laughter working with the amazing students at AMIKO, with Bianca Medina (ACM) sharing “I love just how often and quick the students are to dance. They will come into the building dancing and pause mid-activity just to dance, and it is something that instantly makes me smile and makes my day brighter.”
It has also been a highlight getting to work with the amazing staff at the center who share our passion for supporting students. “I love seeing the relationships that the students at AMIKO have with the teachers,” shared Sarah. “I work with Jamie, who teaches the younger grades, and it’s wonderful to see how much the students trust her and how dedicated she is to her students as well. She is always patient and kind, and that reflects back in how the students behave, and in how excited they always are to share their passions and interests with her.” Christian Galvez (ACM) shared, “I loved getting to interact with the staff and really enjoyed getting to work alongside Yawa, who is an awesome person who loves to joke around and also cooks amazing food for the students.”
With Manchester’s return to full-time in person learning in May, the AMIKO program and City Year volunteers have transitioned back to being an after-school program and are looking forward to finishing out the school year strong. Reflecting on this partnership, our AmeriCorps members share that “spending time with the students has been a joyful experience, and we appreciate having this opportunity to support them”. Stephen Thiel, Assistant VP of Social Impact & Community Relations for SNHU said, “Each week, the experience of our young people was bolstered by those wearing the red jacket. We’re thrilled to continue to work with City Year in the future.”
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