A new report released by the Arizona State Board of Education revealed what many of us working with youth had anticipated: that COVID-19’s impact has been “significant and broad.”
Those are the words used in the study to describe the devastation the global pandemic has wreaked on our kids.
Deficiencies in reading and math were most pronounced, particularly among young (e.g., second grade) students. Virtual learning also took an inordinate toll on youth in lower income communities.
As the voice of youth development for more than 75 years, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley saw firsthand the adverse social and academic effects of the pandemic on our kids. The economic inequities and lack of access to technology and internet, support at home and meals became more apparent and, over the course of the pandemic, the gap widened for some families.
Our Clubs did and continue to do everything possible to remain open safely so parents can work and our kids can experience some normalcy during a tumultuous time. After all, a safe, educational and fun after-school experience is what the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley is all about.
Last year, that experience got even better, thanks to investments by Governor Doug Ducey’s office in Club programming for youth all around the state.
For the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley, that meant extending the hours of the Clubs so kids could participate in full-day programs; get a healthy meal; and enjoy gym time, outdoor activities, art and music.
Realizing the devastating impact COVID-19 had on student learning, Ducey announced the disbursement of $26.5 million to nonprofit organizations statewide, including a grant to the Arizona Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs for $5 million to support access to summer programs in Clubs. The goals: to advance summer learning opportunities, reach struggling students, expand tutoring and improve overall student achievement.
The grant funds covered scholarships to serve thousands of youth at locations across the state, with a special focus on kids from under-resourced communities. These students accessed summer enrichment, recreation, social and emotional development, and meals.
Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley also launched an AmeriCorps program in the Clubs, and these staff members are implementing academic success programs to enrich the lives of our kids and help them catch up from more than two years of lost learning.
COVID-19 reminded us about a lot of things, including the importance of relationships, connections and, in a broader sense, our freedoms. The successful and sustained collaboration among governments, schools, businesses and nonprofits is proof that even during tough times, working together is a winning formula for yielding positive, measurable outcomes for youth, families and community.
Marcia Mintz is chief executive officer of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley, which creates equity and opportunity for more than 16,000 K-12 youth in Greater Phoenix.
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