At the outset of the global pandemic, Clubs in Washington moved quickly to meet the growing needs of community members. Club leadership recognized their unique opportunity to close the gaps in accessible youth care and academic support while schools were closed, especially for children of medical professionals, first responders, grocery store employees, and other members of the essential workforce. Since then, the Clubs have become a critical resources to their local communities, especially as they reconfigured Club operations to support distance learning during the 2020-21 school year. Overall, Clubs have provided over 2,800,000 hours of academic programming to Club kids during the all-virtual school year, as well as extensive social and emotional supports to help members navigate the impacts of limited interaction with peers.
Clubs throughout the state have adapted and expanded programs in a variety of ways:
- Many Clubs have remained open, with added health and safety procedures, to offer care during normal school hours. These Clubs were also waiving daily program fees, ensuring there are no financial barriers for families in need of support. Youth Development Professionals at operating sites identified creative ways to continue important educational, athletic, and leadership programs while adhering to social distancing guidelines.
- For kids whose local Club site had closed its doors, staff implemented alternative ways to deliver youth programs and services. More than half of Washington Clubs offered virtual programming for Club, and additional sites made resources available to help families combat learning loss.
- In an effort to combat food insecurity, Washington Clubs served free meals to youth and families in their communities. As of 2019, 51% of Club members qualified for free or reduced-cost meals at school. Many Club stepped up in partnership with local companies, school districts and other non-profit organizations, to keep kids fed and well-nourished while school meal programs were suspended.
- As schools re-opened across the state, Washington Clubs once again modified their programming to support hybrid schedules, non-instructional days, and provide academic mentoring for members who experienced additional barriers to academic progress.
- The 2021 Summer programs have been planned with a particular attention to the social and emotional needs of Club members. These efforts will emphasize interactive opportunities, outdoor exploration and some academic remediation to prepare students for full-time in person learning in the Fall of 2021.