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For all kids, the classroom offers more than learning; it is the primary social determinant of health. Schools are key to health equity, providing nutrition, physical education, and behavioral support such as connectedness, positive peer and adult relationships, and a sense of belonging.
The safety of our kids is of the utmost priority. While Active Children Portland supports remote schooling while COVID-19 cases increase, distance learning presents challenges to many kids and families, especially those in underserved communities. These students are more likely to suffer from isolation as access to connection and safe spaces to play is limited, and many parents can’t afford supplemental activities. They are more likely to fall behind academically due to technology barriers, linguistic isolation, and toxic stressors like housing and food insecurity that create an environment not conducive to learning. These kids have less access to health care, prevention, and treatment, including mental health services to help manage depression and anxiety caused by COVID-19. Schools traditionally provide necessary services to under-represented kids.
To counteract this, Active Children Portland has developed a delivery model to keep kids active, learning, and safe in a remote learning setting. In conjunction with the US Soccer Foundation, we designed programming that can be accessed entirely online through virtual sessions. This nationally accredited curriculum will be offered in a recorded format, led by national certified trainers who are not only skilled in coaching, but in the social and emotional development of under-represented youth. This is paired with free online resources and activities in nutrition and creative writing, all designed to stimulate discovery and engagement in regular school day learning.
Trained, compassionate mentors will recreate these trainings in a live online setting during out-of-school-time hours. Coach-mentors are the key to successful programming and positive outcomes for kids. They have developed relationships and trust within their teams, creating a true sense of community and belonging while kids learn respect for self and others. This format will allow for the continued personalized mentorship many of these kids need and rely on. Teams will meet virtually two days a week for a minimum of 45 minutes to participate in fun soccer skills that can be done in a small space and without any formal equipment. One day a week will be team bonding and socialization to create positive peer relationships and connection. These activities will include creative exercises and writing, sharing stories, cultural, and traditions.
Both versions of programming were developed in collaboration with nonprofits, health experts, and educators across the country to meet the unique needs of kids during COVID shutdowns and isolation. A national network of partners provide updates and best practices to help maximize efficiency and outcomes.
These services are available at no charge to any child, family, and school to help increase overall community health. We invite you to join us in supporting our local kids.
Kimberly Bergstrom, Executive Director