Community organizations are here to partner with schools and families

by Erica Ahdoot, Executive Director, Horton’s Kids

With all of the talk about recovering from COVID-19, getting “back to normal,” and reopening schools, we must leverage trusted community organizations that can help support schools, communities, students, and families.

Community-based organizations are a key lever for any recovery because they are organizations of the community. From mutual aid to faith-based organizations to established non-profit organizations, we provide to the community, from the community.

The organization that I lead, Horton’s Kids, focuses on mentorship and tutoring for students who live in Wellington Park and Stanton Oaks in Ward 8, providing support across literacy, social-emotional wellness, family engagement, and more. We can be a connection between school and home, and that connection has only grown during COVID-19.

At the beginning of the pandemic, for example, we helped parents and families adjust to distance learning by creating login information cheat sheets, helping build fluency in technology, and reviewing changing schedules. Because we already had trust with families, we were able to support them as schools grappled with building distance learning programming.

That conduit between family and school shouldn’t go away with the end of the pandemic. In fact, any response to COVID-19 education recovery requires leaning on community organizations even more.

Next year, not only should we open schools fully in-person, if health guidance allows, we must focus on what kids need to thrive. That can be as simple as sharing books (instead of reading on tablets) and talking in-person again. It’s also about targeted, small group interventions. It’s about every student having access to tutors who can work one-on-one with students. It’s about building up trust between a young person and tutor, so the student isn’t afraid to ask questions or mess up or struggle to understand a book. That vulnerability often comes out only outside of the classroom.

Schools and organizations cannot be afraid to differentiate, that is, work with every student on where they are academically and provide the specific support that individual students need to be successful.  Schools have been doing things one certain way for a long time. Now, we must all do something different so we can support every student.

At Horton’s Kids, we’d like to see a focus on community organizations as a major piece of supporting schools and families alike. Schools can focus on the learning loss and social emotional learning. Community organizations can fill in on the other critical things our young people need, like music, arts, and social studies, so that students can find their passions.

Community organizations can be the throughline of a recovery, and we stand ready to partner.

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