The halls have been dark, and the gym has been quiet at the Family Success Center since JCPS decided to close classrooms and switch to non-traditional instruction (NTI) to help combat the spread of the coronavirus. That hasn’t stopped Program Manager Julio Anthony from keeping busy, and more importantly, helping our kids that attend after-school programming.
Like everyone else, Julio has had plenty of time to clean and straighten, and with 45 kids enrolled in the program, the FSC can get a little messy. In addition to straightening the bookshelves and organizing the art room, the Clothes Closet for Kids needed sorting to move out the winter clothes and bring in spring and summer clothes. Parents have been stopping by weekly to pick out new clothes for the kids.
Julio is always working hard to see that The Family Success Center is living up to its name. When JCPS announced the switch to NTI, the technology gap widened for many students, including the kids at the FSC, so Julio worked with the Diversity, Equity and Poverty Department at JCPS to see that Chromebooks were delivered to the FSC and distributed to our kids.
Even with Chromebooks in hand, NTI is a challenge for families without internet access at home, so Julio opened the FSC Wi-Fi network to the families and put together paper packets of the lessons for the families to pick up.
Decode Project was working with a few of the kids that were struggling with reading at grade-level before the pandemic struck. This interruption is no small setback. LaToya Whitlock, Executive Director of Decode Project, said, “All kids are negatively impacted by Covid-19 and the disruption of life as we’ve known it. Decode Project is proud of our partnership with St. Vincent de Paul Louisville’s Family Success Center and our Literacy Mentors miss the kids terribly. Unfortunately kids that we identified as needing additional structure literacy support, as they were already not yet reading at grade-level, will likely be even further behind as a result of the social distancing measures we all had to take to keep everyone safe.”
“What we know is that given equitable access to the resources they need to learn to read, in an environment where they are comfortable, welcomed and cared for, with structured literacy, and one-to-one mentoring, the kids were improving weekly in reading and developing positive attitudes toward literacy in general.”
Of Decode Project’s participation, Julio Anthony said, “I will add that I began to see a love for reading and a positive behavior swing for those that were receiving the help from Decode Project. The bond that our FSC participants shared with DP was incredible! Our participants knew what their schedule was and reminded staff when it was their day to meet with DP. This program helped our participants to establish trust when other educators counted them out.”
This forced downtime can’t be regained, but Julio is finalizing plans for a summer program that will get the kids back on track and engaged. The program will not look the same as past summers, but it will be an essential program, regardless of what the fall school year looks like.
Julio is designing programs in art, science, computer skills, and literacy that staff can teach, while adhering to guidelines created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Decode Project has offered to make education packets to help ease the transition back to school in the fall. This transition will likely be a challenge, but it’s urgent to address. LaToya said, “The positive impact of this virus is that generational inequities have been highlighted and we are all aware of just how lethal the lack of access can be. Students we serve are in the unique position to change generational academic, wealth, and overall health outcomes if provided the necessary resources. Literacy is one of those resources and Decode Project is happy to help.”
In the meantime, Julio continues to check in with the kids and their parents to make sure they have the resources they need to weather the pandemic until a sense of normalcy returns.
We have sheltered, fed, and nurtured those in need since 1853, and we remain committed to our mission now more than ever.
St. Vincent de Paul Louisville is a 501(C)(3) Nonprofit registered in the US under EIN: 61-0727110