The Spirit and New Norm at ACE Learning Centers
By Martha Sessums, President, ACE
The ups and downs of the new school year are hard to keep up with, yet the ACE Learning Centers are doing an amazing job. The teams are dedicated to the students and helping them and their families through this pandemic time and are working hard and creatively to continue with the success they have experienced.
As David Hansen, Oakland International High School Vice Principal, who is managing the Dual Enrollment Program for math and English as a Second Language said, “In general what I have found with students is that they are resilient and have a college mind set. They attend high school, work many hours and yet have a spirit that makes them want to be in these classes and spaces.”
That resilient spirit – and the new norm of today’s challenges – are found throughout all the ACE Learning Centers.
Unemployment of parents is huge, and students are having to find work to support their families, which means less time for school. With virtual classes, the class times are more flexible and much of the lesson and homework is online and available at any time.
The schools have risen to the occasion to help their families meet their ongoing financial issues with emergency funds.
Food support has been another key focus resulting in increased Food Bank support and home delivery of food to families in need.
Efforts to close the digital divide of no access to computers and the internet is being met (or close to it) with Chromebooks and hotspots given to families without access to technology.
The technology challenge of figuring out how Zoom works is also being met with tech mentors who help anyone who needs the help. (I wish I had that kind of help with Zoom. I had to call a friend to get lessons.)
Internship programs for students are being used more widely by the Learning Centers. Alpha Parent Learning Center is working with other ACE Learning Center managers to learn about developing best practices for including an internship program in Alpha’s student Dream Club.
The sense of community is key for all the Learning Centers. Teachers and co-students reach out to keep involvement high and support both inside and outside the virtual classroom with critical educational and social-service interventions where needed.
All of this is to maintain the sense of ACE Learning Centers and the participating schools as places of safe haven. It’s tough out there, and without the physical safety provided by a school campus, the virtual campus must be creative in ways to be the virtual safe haven.
One of the good things about virtual classes is that they can actually be easier to attend, especially for working adults. At Alpha, the ESL classes adapt to later times in the day to accommodate changing work schedules and parent students don’t have to spend the time driving to the school, so they save time.
Speaking of virtual, the KALW Audio Academy not only learns about community radio reporting via online Zoom classes, but they report on news event assignments with virtual interviews or certainly socially distanced and masked interviews. Technology helps as editing etc. is online and even delivering the interview to the station is online.
Get ready for spirited stories from students and teachers who will be sharing their distance learning experiences at ACE Learning Centers and how their programs are adapting to the new norm.