Today’s contributor is Kimberly Shaheen. Kimberly is the Communities In Schools Program Manager at Bertha Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy.
This year has marked a string of challenges for how we connect with students both virtual and in-person and provide similar quality services to students. Communities In Schools (CIS) is known for goals, grades, and attendance check ins, a smiling face in the hallway, and consistent group or individual support. Most students are virtual at Sadler Means which causes some creative thinking to bring to life some of our usual services and BLEND has been a key component this year.
Immediately Rita Fennelly-Atkinson helped in brainstorming ways we could use BLEND to help students navigate their remote schedule and see their CIS times. Of course we had mindfulness rooms, a game rooms, and community resources but how were we going to use our BLEND page to not only be a resource but be an active form of engagement. We were able to create sections for our student groups so that we could post their group time on their calendar and also run announcements to help with reminders. We were able to create a virtual social hour lunch where students can choose to hop on and have a community lunch on Friday’s. Since it’s posted to their calendar, they have the option to log on and don’t need to receive reminder texts or emails. Similarly, we were able to have an optional Homework Hour. We are also able to individually post session times and let students know when we will be meeting with them. These are all things I used to do in person, but since we are mostly virtual it helps to be able to connect with students on a platform they have to log onto every day and not have to inundate with texts and emails.
I have seen tremendous impacts in our engagement this Fall compared to last Spring by having BLEND access and being able to post meeting times and zoom links straight to their calendar to help keep all the things in one place. While we have an uphill battle to support students and mitigate connections through a pandemic, I am really grateful for innovate minds and ongoing support to access our students in new and creative ways.