From Our Team
Out-of-school time is still important to keep kids healthy, engaged during the pandemic
Posted on September 21, 2020 by Guest Author
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and schooling remains virtual, it may seem as though “out-of-school” time is all the time.
Out-of-school (OST) time programs, such as before and after-school summer youth programs, are essential to the physical and emotional well-being of youth. The Borderland Out-Of-School Time (BOOST) Network is a hub for OST providers in the El Paso-Juárez-Las Cruces region. The United Way of El Paso County, as BOOST’s backbone organization, and the Paso del Norte Health Foundation support the network’s mission to create opportunities and increase the quality and effectiveness of programs for youth on the border. BOOST is part of the Health Foundation’s Healthy Kids Initiative which aims to improve a range of health outcomes by engaging disconnected youth in the Paso del Norte region in high quality programs during out of school hours.
Schooling virtually from home has not only changed what OST can be, it has also led to unique conditions for youth, which makes it even more important for organizations to continue to provide OST programs. The advantage of having a network such as BOOST already as an active part of the OST community on the border has been invaluable.
“The BOOST Network allows organizations to come together, provide support and also collaborate on OST programs and it’s been a valuable resource for our organization and others in the region,” says Andrea Gates-Ingle, executive director of Creative Kids. She is also the former president of BOOST.
Creative Kids offers a variety of arts education programs. One very important program, which is funded through a grant from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, is an arts program that serves Fabens ISD. Creative Kids is the only OST program in Fabens, a rural community with about 1,200 school-age youth.
“Having that backbone of support and collaboration has helped many of our members pivot to online and at-home programming during COVID,” says Gates-Ingle.
The Boys & Girls Club of Las Cruces, another Health Foundation grantee, also adapted programming to respond to the pandemic.
“The grant funding that contributed to our Teen Night allowed us to stay open on Friday nights for teens only,” said Ashley Echavarria, CEO of Boys & Girls Club Las Cruces. “When the pandemic hit, we had to pivot to virtual and curbside approaches. We’ve provided suppers daily and club-on-the-go activity kits, which includes supplies.”
That pivot is so important now as many youths are struggling with the changes that have been caused since the pandemic hit the border region, says Laura Oronoz, Childhood and Youth Development Coordinator for FEMAP in Juárez.
“We’ve heard from parents and observed ourselves that many of the children in our programs have been feeling sad or depressed or overall pessimistic about the future because of this disruption to their routines and having to stay at home,” says Oronoz.
Because of grant funding from the Health Foundation through the Healthy Kids initiative, FEMAP has been able to maintain expanded hours in order to accommodate smaller class sizes.
“We still have a waiting list, so that speaks to the need that still exists for OST during these times,” she says.
Keeping kids engaged during school and outside of school is so important to their health, their future and to our community. I encourage parents who are looking for OST programming for their kids to seek out a BOOST Network provider at theboostnetwork.org. And if your organization provides OST programming for youth in the region, please join the network so that you can share your successes and collaborate with other programs in the region. Visit the website or click here to learn more.
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