Amidst statewide Stay Home, Stay Healthy orders, students and teachers have been leaning on support from local youth serving programs. Partners within the Renton Local Improvement Network (LIN)* are adapting their offerings to support students with STEM, mindfulness, social and emotional learning, and counseling services online. These programs had previously been integrated into the elementary school setting, with course offerings during the school day and as after-school programming. When schools closed, it was crucial that students did not lose their connections to these supports and resources.

After Techbridge Girls (TBG) suspended their in-person, after-school STEM programs, Program Manager of Professional Development Claire Plourde reached out to schools and partners to see how their organization could help the community. She shared, “After collecting data from TBG educators, partners, and volunteers who are focused on supporting elementary youth, we learned that what would be most helpful right now are one-page STEM activities with materials that can be found around the house that are clear, concise and educational. Accompanying this one-pager is an instructional video as well.” As a result, they launched Techbridge Girls@Home and will be sharing weekly STEM challenges, offered in seven different languages, for the remainder of the school year to supplement the STEM content students are receiving from the district. The videos feature Techbridge Girls staff and women role models who work in the STEM field.

Another virtual resource for students comes from Thrive Yoga, which has been offering mindfulness and yoga classes to students at Bryn Mawr Elementary to complement social and emotional learning. Since they can no longer connect with students in person, instructors Ms. D and Ms. Shay created short videos to continue the practices with their students. They will be posting on the Renton School District website, as well as offering weekly yoga classes on Zoom.

Sound Discipline partners with schools in Renton and Tukwila to train educators in social and emotional learning and trauma-informed practices to help build upon student resilience. When schools closed, their staff surveyed educators and families to ask what services would be most helpful. As a result, they have added short, practical social and emotional learning activities to their website including topics such as self-regulation, connection, and family meetings. Sound Discipline’s Director of Program, Stacy Lappin, shared with schools, “We will continue to support social and emotional learning opportunities for students and their families while they are home together. We will send resources each week around a specific theme that supports students and parents with social and emotional learning.” Sound Discipline has also started a Virtual Parent Support Network that meets weekly on Zoom to help build community, share tools, and answer questions. Additionally, the organization’s YouTube channel contains videos made by staff and educators, which includes tips on managing sibling conflict and positive discipline at home.

Another LIN partner, Renton Area Youth & Family Services (RAYS), has adjusted their school-based counseling services to make sure their clients still have access to wrap-around care. They are offering mental health counseling and substance use disorder treatment services virtually, as well as their Kinship Care and Healthy Start programs to current and new clients. To maintain social distancing precautions, individuals can refer others or self-refer to RAYS programs by phone or online forms. Another new offering from RAYS is the “Raise the Roof” program, run by Youth Life coaches and a chemical dependency counselor, to provide weekly interactive support meetings for RAYS Up clients and chemical dependency program clients. Participants meet on Zoom to discuss a variety of topics, including feelings around not being in school, peer pressure, and anxiety.

When schools closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, LIN partners that used to rely substantially on in-person programs quickly expanded their online offerings to help students maintain connections to educational and well-being resources. While social distancing contributes to chaotic changes in students’ routines, these mental health supports are vital to help our youth feel supported and connected to their schools and community programs.

Ways you can support these LIN Partners:

Online Resources from LIN Partners and Schools:

* 2019-20 School Year Renton LIN Partners:
African Community Housing & Development (ACHD), Baile Dior Studios, Centro Rendu, Communities In Schools of Renton-Tukwila, Renton Area Youth & Family Services (RAYS), Sound Discipline, Somali Parents Education Board (SPEB), Somali Youth & Family Club (SYFC), Techbridge Girls, The Silent Taskforce / Construyendo Juntos, and Thrive Yoga

This story is part of a series on how Local Improvement Network partners are responding to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the other story: Local Improvement Network partners feed the community in response to the impacts of COVID-19.

Posted in: Early Learning & Elementary Success

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