Ensuring Equity Through Community Learning0
We live in a city that is home to lauded academic institutions, exceptional restaurants, thought-provoking art, and more. Although these elements help make Kalamazoo interesting, it is the collective desire to strengthen equity among residents that makes our city a great place to live.
As the intermediary organization for Kalamazoo County’s out-of-school time sector, Kalamazoo Youth Development Network (KYD Network) plays a key role in achieving this equity. In August 2020, the nonprofit identified a serious area of necessity for students and created an initiative to address it.
“When it became apparent that schools were going virtual, we knew that the need for educational, social, and emotional support would be at an all-time high,” Executive Director Meg Blinkiewicz indicated.
After observing the responses of fellow intermediary organizations from around the nation such as San Francisco’s Department of Children, Youth and Their Families, Blinkiewicz and the KYD Network team put together the framework for a network of Learning Hubs. KYD Network raised $650,000 to launch Equity Cohorts via 14 Community Learning Hubs that served 350 students throughout the 2020-2021 school year.
Community partners served as Learning Hubs, including the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo, Centerpoint Church, El Concilio, Trenches Community Church, YMCA Lincoln, Prevention Works, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Urban Zone, Kalamazoo Nature Center, New Genesis Inc., Community Association, and Christ Temple Church.
“These hubs provided high-quality online learning, tutoring, mentoring, enrichment programming, food support, mental health services, and family support programming during the pandemic,” she shared.
Thanks to the trust already built among the 60 organizations that KYD Network collaborates with, this initiative was quickly put into action and received plenty of praise.
“It was monumental that each of these organizations were able to come together and provide the network for the Equity Cohorts and Community Learning Hubs,” Cyekeia Lee, Director of Community Collaboration at The Kalamazoo Promise (The Promise), attested. “From our seat, it was instrumental to have help in keeping students focused and on track for The Promise.”
In addition to adulation from KYD Network’s partners, community members also expressed their appreciation of the Community Learning Hubs.
“We plan to release a report in the next few weeks, but the feedback we received so far has been invaluable,” Blinkiewicz revealed. “We had parents tell us that they would not have been able to keep their jobs if it wasn’t for the Learning Hubs. It was just an overall positive response.”
With all 60 of its collaborators back to in-person learning, KYD Network has returned to its standard slate of programming for the 2021-2022 school year.
Understanding and addressing the educational needs of our community’s youth is a core component in establishing long-term equity. We applaud KYD Network for recognizing an opportunity for growth and reacting quickly.
If you are interested in supporting KYD Network’s mission, monetary donations are accepted on the organization’s website.