826 Valencia Programs Go Digital

“One sunny day there lived a traveler, and her name was Sasha. Now, Sasha was a normal fifteen-year-old. But when she crossed the Anything You Want Bridge, she’d have the power to fly, read minds, and teleport. But teleporting was her secret power.”
– Xander-Bae J., BVHM

The Bay Area’s shelter-in-place order has been extended through May, and schools are closed through the end of the school year. We know that, in addition to a host of other challenges, this has potential long-term impacts on our students’ learning, so we’re using our own secret powers to adapt quickly to meet this urgent need. It’s not quite an Anything-You-Want Bridge, but in the last few weeks we’ve helped students write book reports, practice spoken-word poetry, complete homework, and process current events. Here’s what we’re working on: 

826 Valencia Programs Go DigitalMoving programs online, safely. We’ve created new programs for this challenging time, starting with tutoring sessions for the families in our four after-school programs. Our teen workshops meet weekly over video to build community and grow their writing skills. Our staff is also connecting with teachers and joining online classrooms to support with writing. We’re taking every precaution to keep our students safe while learning online, which means every tutoring session must include a 2:1 adult-to-student ratio to ensure safety. Our goal is to serve 600 students and 25 teacher partners in this new program model while under shelter-in-place.

Addressing the digital divide. Our staff has made hundreds of calls to families to ensure they can access this new way of learning. What we learned was that the digital divide is stark, and technology and wifi are often obstacles to accessing classwork. We worked quickly to distribute our own laptops to any families who needed them, spent time coaching students and families one-on-one over the phone to help them access learning tools, created handbooks translated into our students’ home languages, and are working hard to leverage corporate support to help families get access to hotspots. 

Amplifying our students’ voices — because we need to hear them now. We’re living through an unprecedented, deeply challenging, uncertain time. The impact of COVID-19 is especially felt and disproportionately harmful in low-income communities of color. Our students need to be encouraged to tell their stories, use writing to process their experiences, and share their ideas with the world. All of our spring student publications will be available online in a PDF library and as free ebooks, which we hope you’ll read for your needed dose of youth perspective and hope for the future! Follow us on social media and subscribe to our newsletter for more student voices. 

We’ll end this update the way some of our online tutoring sessions end: with a “King Carl Check In”, in which students reflect on their learning during the session. So far, 100% of students have strongly agreed with the statement “I’ve tried my best.” 

We’re trying our very best to be of service to our students and community in this challenging time, to come as close as we can get to teleportation, and to navigate all of this together. Thank you for your support!