Expanded Learning Opportunity (ELO) providers and school district personnel agree that they are Zoom fatigued, depressed, and no longer motivated to join any kind of virtual learning. Like them, Maricela Rodriguez, a Centro Rendu staff member, has been thinking of strategies to engage her young people to attend their Zoom virtual session regularly. Since Centro Rendu has a strong partnership with parents and community resources, she decided to invite parents and people from the community to co-facilitate with her.
One of her guests was Father Carlos Orozco from St. Louis Parish in Bellevue. Father Orozco is known for his collection of exotic animals. He joined their Zoom call one afternoon to talk about his special animals. Eyes glued to the screen and inching closer to the screen, the children had a lot of questions for Father Orozco as he talked about each of his reptiles, amphibians, and his fish collection. Father Orozco talked about how young people can help protect them and play a role in caring for animals.
One adult community member who was there to support the program said, “This is a wonderful experience that will echo through the children for a long time. They asked questions that showed that they were listening and taking in the information. Seeing the animals, sharing his knowledge, and passion for protecting not only the animals in your care, but also the entire planet, resonated with the children.”
Centro Rendu is part of the Best Starts for Kids Collaborative in South King County that targets Latinx youth to support their academic and life goals.
I have been a Best Starts for Kids coach for the Renton Collaborative for the past two years. Centro Rendu is one of the youth organizations that has partnered with the City of Renton and other youth organizations that use the Renton Community Center to provide ELO programming in the Highlands neighborhood.
As a coach, I am usually invited to facilitate specialized professional development like “Teambuilding,” which helps them understand their work and communication styles. I am always invited to join their joint meetings to share best practices, answer their questions, recommend and suggest solutions as needed. Coaches also partner with direct frontline staff to support them in creating their learning plans and how to embed opportunities to build their participants’ social-emotional skills.
One of the joys of working with a collaborative such as the Renton Highland Collaborative is watching how each member of the collaborative expertly aligns their organizations’ missions and values with a common goal: cooperative work to support youth program quality and youth development. Their common goal has enabled them to overcome challenges that youth development organizations experience such as staff turnover, not enough funding to support full-time staff and COVID-19.
A good example was when they all had to go remote. Centro Rendu had sixty students and staff supported them by attaching activities in their weekly emails. Then staff found out that out of the sixty families receiving program support only one family opened their emails. Meanwhile other partners struggled with the online platform and low attendance. A virtual meeting was held among the partners and they came up with several solutions.
The City of Renton Youth Coordinator volunteered to deliver Centro Rendu’s staff letters and cards to the families and the City paid for the stamps. Their coach shared some best practices on how to engage youth virtually and provided training on how to use the different platforms. The collaborative also connected with the school district resulting in meeting with the principals in the surrounding schools. Today, there is a strong partnership with the children’s teachers and their principal and there are two new youth programs that joined the collaborative to share professional development, share resources and expertise.