Learning Extension Center: Thanks for a great year!

A little over a year ago, many parents were learning that the 2020-2021 school year would be virtual for at least the first few weeks.

Weeks turned into months and ended with students learning virtually for the entirety of the school year.

Parents who could not stay home with their children were now facing a few difficult questions. How will I afford childcare? How will I afford WiFi? Will my children fall behind in school? Parents were battling these issues all while continuing to show up to their jobs during the middle of a global pandemic.

While parents of students in our community were struggling to find answers, students were spending hours behind a computer screen, with little to no interaction with others. Without in-person guidance, engagement was nearly impossible, and it wasn’t long before teachers worried about students falling behind.

At St. Stephen’s Community House, one of our values is impact- continuing to adapt to the ever-changing needs of our community. St. Stephen’s began conversations with Columbus City Schools and I Know I Can, a college readiness program based in Columbus. Collectively, we recognized the problems that parents in our community were facing, and the Learning Extension Center was born.

Starting in November of 2020, the goal of the Learning Extension Center was to create a space where students could come to receive meals, instruction, and assistance with virtual learning. It turned out to be so much more for the students involved.

The LEC brought on six assistants, who oversaw the students virtual learning, provided the meals, and any other activities that the students were doing. The LEC consisted of 50 students, who were split into smaller groups for a more personalized experience for each child.

Students would arrive at 11:45 am for the Learning Extension Center where they would complete their assignments, play games, and even look after classroom pets, like lizards and turtles! The LEC would wrap up at 3:30 pm, and many students would then stay for our after-school program.

Our after-school program existed prior to the pandemic, but became an important extension of the LEC. Students would play games, perform experiments, and create art projects that focused on STEM based learning. Along with that, they were also provided snacks and dinner. This was a great outlet for students once they were able to turn off their laptops and unplug for the day. Tommy Ferguson, the LEC Program Director, recognized how important these two programs have been for the children in our community.

“For months many of these students were isolated, and that starts to take a toll on them. The LEC allowed these students to get the support they needed for their education, but also created a space that they could socialize,” said Tommy.

Along with the impact this was having on the students, Tommy also pointed out the significant impact it was having on the parents. These parents were now able to focus on working and surviving one of the most challenging years, knowing that their children were learning in a safe and enriching environment.

Thanks to the funding from Franklin County Board of Commissioners and Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services, there were six Learning Extension Centers created around in Columbus, giving students in each region a place to learn and grow. St. Stephen’s Community House was proud to partner with amazing organization to bring this vital program to our community.

The Learning Extension Center was funded by the Franklin County Board of Commissioners; administered by Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services. 

To learn more about “I Know I Can,” please click here.

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