Tuesday, May 25, 2021

ODE To This Thing Called Family

Sheila McKinney,
Richmond, CA's Youth Poet Laureate

RYSE Youth Center announced Sheila McKinney as Richmond CA's first Youth Poet Laureate (YPL)! The YPL is a new role for the city of Richmond that highlights the artistic endeavors and artistry of youth within their community, while bridging the gap between youth and adults. She is mentored by the former Richmond Poet Laureate and RYSE Media, Arts, & Culture Manager, Ciera Jevae, and will work with youth and adult poets nationally.

Sheila McKinney is a 16 year old poet attending Pinole Valley High (West Contra Costa School District, Ca). She serves on the Debate team, the African American Student Union, as well as WISE (Women in STEM Education). She recently started writing and performing over this past year, and is already co-facilitating a series of poetry workshops on the national level. Sheila uses poetry as a form of activism and as a tool for moving the world into a more just and loving place.  

We asked Sheila to submit a poem for our LIAS Blog which is presented below. 

ODE To This Thing Called Family 
By Sheila McKinney 

Ode to that smacking I hear
I hate when you do it but miss it when you not here
Passed down recipes from ancestors that show up every now and again 
And in honor of you
We eat gracely
With bowed heads we say Amen
The taste that opens heaven gates on my tongue 

Ode to those who were once young
Tellin stories nobody knew
Surprised faces with a burst of comfort feels the room 
The long talks that have my eyes open
Ears perked like a dog
Even when you’re miles away
I vision the moments we have shared
The thoughts that evolved 

People that I’m always around 
Knows me like the back of my hand 
Enough love to last my whole life 
Enough friction to create strife
Ode to this thing we call family 

RYSE is a Youth Serving Organization based in Richmond, Ca. RYSE consists of 4 departments; Community Health, Education & Justice, Youth Organizing, and the Media Arts, and Culture Department. Their aim is to eliminate any barriers youth may face in the pursuit of education, life goals, and liberation, as well as create platforms that elevate youth voice and youth leadership in the present and the future. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The Well-Being of Adolescents During COVID-19

Source: www.cdc.gov

In our work with young people, it is important that we think about the many ways they may have been impacted by COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), "Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) can affect adolescents directly and indirectly. Beyond getting sick, many adolescents’ social, emotional and mental well-being has been impacted by the pandemic. Trauma faced at this developmental stage may have long-term consequences across their lifespan."

The CDC offers several briefing papers on how the pandemic has impacted the mental health of young people. They offer 4 papers by age group. Below we include excerpts from Social, Emotional, and Mental Well-being of Adolescents during COVID-19. You can read the complete paper here.


Change in Routines- In addition to everyday steps to prevent COVID-19, physical or social distancing is one of the best tools we have to avoid being exposed to the virus and to slow its spread. However, having to physically distance from someone you love – like friends, boyfriend or girlfriend, family or your worship community – can be hard. Adolescents may struggle when asked to change their social routines – from choosing to skip in-person gatherings, to consistently wear masks in public settings. It is important for adults to help adolescents take personal responsibility to protect themselves and others, as well as support them in safely taking time to connect with friends and family remotely. 

Break in Continuity of Learning- School closures due to COVID-19 have meant that adolescents have been participating in learning from home. Online platforms and communities have become essential, as families turn to digital solutions more than ever to support students’ learning. Unfortunately, the immediate need for virtual learning environments brought to light inequity in resources, access and connectivity across families and communities. School closures have also meant a break in access to some essential developmental services like occupational, behavioral, or speech therapy. It could also have impeded continuity in adolescents’ development of athletic or hands-on vocational skills, with potential impacts on their higher education and professional future. It is important to understand how virtual learning could make learning increasingly challenging for students with limited resources or special needs. Moreover, some children may experience anxiety about going back to school in-person or virtually. Some may also experience fatigue from online video conferencing— commonly referred to as “zoom fatigue .” 

Break in Continuity of Health Care- Parents may have avoided seeking health care for their adolescents due to stay-at-home orders and may continue to do so because they are afraid of getting sick with COVID-19. This includes important well-child visits, immunizations and oral health care. Additionally, school closures have impacted many adolescents’ ability to receive mental health, speech therapy and occupational health services on campus. It is important to ensure adolescents receive continuity of health care, including continuing mental health, occupational and speech therapies (e.g. via telehealth), and receiving vaccines – including COVID-19, when it becomes available.

Source: www.cdc.gov
Missed Significant Life Events- Physical distancing can feel as if one is placing life on hold. The truth is that the clock keeps ticking. Birthdays, graduations, proms, homecoming, vacation plans, births and funerals are just a sample of the many significant life events that adolescents may have missed experiencing during COVID-19. Social distancing, stay-at-home orders and limits to gatherings have affected their ability to gather in person with friends and family to celebrate or grieve in typical ways. Grief is a normal response to losing someone or something important to you. It is important for family and friends to help adolescents and alternate, creative and safe ways to connect and support each other at a distance. 

Source: www.cdc.gov
Loss of Security and Safety- Job loss and lost wages affected the household income of many adolescents’ families during COVID-19. Economic insecurity is consistently linked to adverse development, academic achievement, and health outcomes. It may affect adolescents’ ability to consistently access healthy foods, safe transportation and housing. Mounting economic stressors can increase their risk for exposure to violence. Along with stay-at-home orders during COVID-19, some adolescents may have been increasingly exposed to abuse and neglect, intimate partner violence at home, and sexual violence. Their increased online activity also puts them at increased risk for online harms, such as online sexual exploitation, cyberbullying, online risk-taking behavior, and exposure to potentially harmful content. It is important for parents and other prosocial adults to maintain a trustworthy relationship and open communication with adolescents, watching for behavior changes that may signal distress.


Recognize and Address Fear and Stress- Adolescence is a time of big changes. Adolescents can be particularly overwhelmed when stress is related to a traumatic event, expressed as excessive worry or sadness, unhealthy eating or sleeping habits, and difficulty with attention and concentration. Adults can provide stability and support to help them cope, as well as facilitate access to professional help and distress emergency hotlines, as needed. 

Source: www.news-medical.net
Teach and Reinforce Everyday Preventive Actions- There are actions we can take to protect others, prevent getting sick and slow the spread of COVID-19. Encourage adolescents to be good role models— if they wash their hands often, stay at least 6 feet apart from others, and wear their masks in public spaces to help protect themselves and others, then younger children – and even their peers – are more likely to do the same.

Help Keep Adolescent Children Healthy- Teach adolescents the importance of taking care of their health. Engage them in scheduling routine check and immunizations visits. Ensure continuity in their mental health and occupational health care. Encourage them to eat healthy, drink water – instead of sugar sweetened beverages – for strong teeth, be physically active, or learn something new. It can help them stay healthy and focused.

Help Adolescents Stay Socially Connected- Encourage adolescents to reach out to friends and family via phone, video chats, social media, or even via video games. Schools may have tips and guidelines to help support their social and emotional needs.

Steps to Help Provide Stability and Support to Adolescents

  • Maintain a normal routine
  • Talk, listen, and encourage expression
  • Give honest and accurate information
  • Teach simple steps to stay healthy
  • Be alert for any change in behavior
  • Reassure adolescents about their safety and well-being


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Missing Hours: COVID Shutdown and Afterschool

By Sam Piha

This fall, after nearly a year of isolation, youth are likely returning to school full time. What did young people experience during this time? A recent article in the NY Times, The Missing Hours: 7 Students on Losing a Year of After-School Activities, by Juliana Kim, quoted young people about their experience during the last year of shut down. 

Julianna writes, “From 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. That block of time, between the end of classes and the beginning of dinner, were for millions of teenagers everywhere the golden hours of the day. They provided a release from the pressures of school or an escape from a stressful home. It was a time for friendship and fun.”  

Below we provide some excerpts from this article. To read the full article, click here

Source: NY Times,
Lila Barth

I’ve done the Y.M.C.A. from sixth grade onward. It started because my mom was working, my dad was working, my sister was working, so my mom needed to find somewhere I could spend my time instead of staying home alone. I haven’t gone to the Flushing Y in a year; it’s tough. I really miss going. We still have our meetings but they’re online — very rarely do I get to go outside and see my friends or counselors, so it’s a big adjustment. Sometimes I feel like I’m just far away from the world.”— Samir, 16 


Source: NY Times,
Lila Barth
The 96th street library on the East Side was my second happy place, after home. I would go there after school, get my work done, then go home. The security guard knows me, some staff know me. It was like a family to me over there… Libraries were the place you could rely on and have peace. I’ve been through shelters since I was 8 years old. My dad kicked out my mom, and she took me and my little sister with her. It was a lot of back and forth. Some kids out there might go to a cafe, but they have to buy something if they want to study. So it’s hard. The library is really the only option. When they were opening up schools, I was like, OK, are they going to open up the library? But they mentioned nothing about the library. What’s the whole point of opening up schools if you can’t go to the library?” — Sam, 18

Source: NY Times,
Lila Barth
 . This year, remote learning has been very isolating for me. My mom works at a hospital and my dad is a taxi driver so it can feel very lonely at home. And I haven’t danced after school since March. There’s no space to dance but also, I’ve become more self-conscious. I realize how important it is to have company when you do activities that might spark insecurities, like dancing. I feel like there’s been an insensitivity about youth mental health. There’s a huge emphasis on taking care of and making time for yourself, but the best way to take care of myself was through my extracurriculars. I feel like a part of myself has been erased.” — Meril, 17

Source: NY Times,
Lila Barth

These activities and organizations are so important. They might just save somebody’s life, you know?” — Rafael, 15

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Summer Programs: A Gateway to the Return to School

Miguel Cardona, U.S. Secretary of Education
Source: Edweek.org
By Sam Piha

Summer programs will be an important gateway to returning to school and healing from a year of isolation. However, these programs should not be pressured to fix the pandemic induced learning loss. Two available articles on focusing on learning loss deserve a read: Too Much Focus on ‘Learning Loss’ Will Be a Historic Mistake and Our Kids Are Not Broken.

Our kids have lost so much—family members, connections to friends and teachers, emotional well-being, and for many, financial stability at home. And, of course, they’ve lost some of their academic progress. The pressure to measure—and remediate—this “learning loss” is intense; many advocates for educational equity are rightly focused on getting students back on track. But I am concerned about how this growing narrative of loss will affect our students, emotionally and academically. Research shows a direct connection between a student’s mindset and academic success. – Ron Berger, Senior Advisor at EL Education 

We’re in the throes of a pandemic. Put yourself in the perspective of a 9-year-old. Students have been looking at a computer for the better part of a year as they learn. So, any summer learning enrichment experience really needs to be re-engaging students in a community of learners. That’s done through experiential learning, getting outdoors, doing projects, [while] maintaining the health and safety standards that are required, to really re-engaging them with experiences. It could be connected to a museum visit. It could be connected to a summer camp where they have experiences. – Miguel Cardona, U.S. Secretary of Education  

How should we be thinking about our “gateway” summer youth programs? What do youth need from their summer program experiences?  How will this year's summer programming differ from past years? We asked some youth program professionals to share their thoughts on how we should we be thinking about summer programs.

Brad Lupien, ARC
President & CEO
This summer is a chance to test theories and demonstrate excellence in collaborative, active, meaningful experiences. We may only get this chance, at this scale, once. The hypothetical question, “if you had [nearly] unlimited funding for summer learning, what would you try, change, experiment with?” is now a reality. This is the time for innovators. 

Bill Fennessy,
A World Fit for Kids
There certainly is great academic learning loss, no question. The social emotional learning loss, however, coupled with the loss of daily personal human contact will have left students with an acute need for programming, activities, and play that intentionally address those needs. As we all know, these basic and critical human needs must be addressed, before there can be any real academic learning. Training to help understand and identify students' mental health issues, coupled with knowing how to refer them to services, will likely be the long-term challenge.  

Autrilla Gillis,
ISANA Academies
This year’s gateway summer youth programs must be multi-faceted. There is a strong need for social-emotional supports, academic interventions and enrichment opportunities. Programs will play an integral role in re-acclimating students to a structured environment to lay the foundation for their successful return to full-time on-campus instruction. Youth need structured, supportive, well-organized, and focused hubs to support these healthy transitions and provide a break from the monotony of life during the pandemic. While we’re a long way from our old normal, the ability to craft programs that are safe, supportive, and engaging are endless. This year’s return to summer programming has never been more important. As we approach summer programming, we must maximize the opportunity to reach all students. While data will indicate which students are most at-risk and in need of targeted supports, there is also a very real need to maintain contact with and provide supports for students that are at grade-level or above.

Stu Semigran,
EduCare Foundation
This summer, our young people will need the time to breathe, to play, to reconnect, and to enjoy themselves and one another. In many ways, it can be similar to reuniting a family after being apart for so long... to tell their stories, to share their experiences, and to begin the process, welcomed for some and awkward for others, of being together again. This time for healing and reconnecting with their peers and teachers will hopefully rebuild communities of safety, renewed comfort, and stability that can then serve as a foundation for reigniting learning.  Being patient and allowing space for the awkwardness of reestablishing connections and for the opportunities to address the trauma and pain of this pandemic year will be essential as we focus on the social-emotional needs of us all- both students and adults.

After a full year of learning isolation, young people are just now returning to school, in a face- to- face or hybrid model. This Fall youth are likely returning to school full time. Summer youth programs will be an important gateway to returning to school and healing from a year of isolation. But how should we be thinking about our gateway summer youth programs? What do youth need from their summer program experiences? How will this year's summer programming differ from past years?

On Friday, May 7, 2021, we are sponsoring a Speaker's Forum/ webinar discussion on this topic. It will be facilitated by Ayala Goldstein (Director of Programs, California School- Age Consortium). She will be joined by Aaron Dworkin (CEO of National Summer Learning Association), Autrilla Gillis (Director of Expanded Learning, ISANA Academies) and Selekha Ramos (Mighty Writers) who will be sharing their thoughts and responding to your questions. To register and learn more, click here.

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