Power in Numbers: Sharing Resource Among Rural 21st CCLC Sites
Y4Y recently spoke with Luis Bravo, project specialist for the Safe & Healthy Kids Department in the Office of Fresno County Superintendent of Schools in California. Mr. Bravo shared some of the practices that came out of his district’s virtual learning experience that they will continue, going forward. [Podcast]
Y4Y: Mr. Bravo, your district had a very big challenge last year when schools and your 21st CCLC program went all-virtual overnight, especially considering how far apart students in your most rural areas are, geographically. Can you share a little with our audience about what your immediate steps were to retain those students?
LB: Thank you for the question and for having me on. Once we all received notice that 21st century programs were going to be shut down, I asked myself, “How can we let our community know that we are still here and provide services through virtual platforms?” I connected with a local organization called Quiq Labs and asked if they would be willing to help our site leads create practical websites that would allow students to log on with their expanded learning tutors and receive homework help, as well as participate in various enrichment programs. We quickly created over a dozen websites across two districts. Each website allowed the corresponding school to display their tutoring schedule as well as technical support for parents who struggle with technology.
Y4Y: Now that you’re returning to in-person programming, how are these individual websites utilized?
LB: These websites continue to be used to showcase students’ projects and highlight events that our 21st century programs are hosting. The goal is to upload current, up-to-date content that not only highlights students’ success, but also gives all stakeholders a pretty good idea of that program’s identity, regardless of their location. Most of the programs I serve are in rural areas, and sometimes it’s difficult to highlight all the amazing accomplishments. Regarding safety, each photo or video is approved by parents. We always want to make sure we have permission from them by having them sign a media release form.
Y4Y: You’ve shared with Y4Y that cost-sharing was an important feature of website development, and that the freedom extended by the state to reimagine how to operate and use funding carried over into other aspects of programming around your district. What kinds of new areas have you been able to explore by cost-sharing?
LB: Since funding carried over, and with schools being shut down, we needed to find a way to use our funds that would strengthen our foundation and give equitable access to students who have not considered 21st CCLC programs in the past. Our team developed a three-step process: (1) Create your Expanded Learning website to give your community up-to-date information. (2) Create a lesson plan online portal for academic and enrichment lessons to be shared from site to site. Since the shutdown, we have been able to collect and share over 900 lesson plans among our staff members. And finally, (3) Share onboarding and training modules for new and existing staff members.
We also created a social media platform specifically for our Expanded Learning professionals. This platform allows sites to share ideas, documents and grant updates. It will help new and existing staff connect with other sites on any questions they have, and share fresh ideas. The goal is to share resources in hopes that we have continuous quality improvements in our communities. The platform provides valuable, relevant information to all our programs: training videos, classrooms management techniques and enrichment lesson plans, just to name a few. Multi-site managers and administrators will have access to program pictures and videos of the school sites they supervise. At the end of the day, we want to highlight the importance of providing our kiddos with the opportunity to participate in a variety of classes.
Y4Y: We know that Fresno County 21st CCLC programs have many other types of successes to boast about, made possible through these strong online connections. We’d love to hear some examples.
LB: Thanks to these tools, we have boosted and upgraded our students’ service-learning projects by reaching and connecting with multiple school sites across districts. For example: Our student leadership team selects an organization they would like to partner with to work on a service-learning project such as a canned food drive or collecting jeans to make shoes for students in Uganda through an organization named Sole Hope. We now can help students promote their project with other programs in their district to make a bigger impact. We also document the process and share with all stakeholders.
Y4Y: At the end of the day, we know that the key to recruiting and retaining high school students, especially, is strong student voice and choice. Do you have any final thoughts or advice for programs around the country based on what Fresno County learned through the creation of these websites at each of your program sites?
LB: I know that programs across the country are providing amazing opportunities to their students. I challenge my 21st CCLC community to reflect on the importance of documenting and sharing these achievements so they can continue to advocate for the future of our programs. I learned that students are more invested in their personal goals when they have the opportunity to serve others. Thank you.