by Philip Ferrari, the co-owner operator of ECE Program Solutions
Dayton is strong because Daytonians are helpers. Of course, our community has challenges, but our ability to engage and empathize with one another is deep-seated.
Relationships and trust permeate our civic lives, making it possible to take on hard problems together. We’re large enough that we have big-city problems, but we’re small enough to fix them. Non-profit and educational leaders in the Dayton community are leveraging these relationships to tackle tough topics, identify impactful responses and work together to help vulnerable families.
Dayton’s helpers find fellow helpers. And, thus, they find hope.
A shining example of this spirit is the Summer School Afterschool Collaborative, convened by Learn to Earn Dayton. The collaborative includes more than 19 nonprofit, governmental and philanthropic organizations focused on ensuring that children keep learning when they’re out of school — during the summer and after the school day.
The collaborative is adopting and implementing strategies to improve the educational outcomes of students. Each agency partner is independent, but all are learning from each other. Roughly 2,000 students and families are served annually by collaborative members; many of those who benefit struggle financially or are living in poverty.
Convening these organizations monthly provides a forum to discuss forces that limit children’s and families’ success. These issues include concentrated poverty, systemic racism, food insecurity and addiction, among others.
Fostering success for our students and families in the face of these challenges takes compassion, patience, resolve and certainly partnership.
After school and summer providers do much more than offer space for kids to gather. They help students with homework, teach social skills, engage them in fun fitness activities and expose them to mentors. In other words, they use progressive and evidenced-based strategies to support young people.
Some collaborative members are meeting specialized needs — supporting students suffering from trauma and providing summer camp for students with family members struggling with addiction, for example. Others support families by coordinating legal services for ex-offenders, assisting parents who are out of work ... and the list goes on.
Helpers continue to find ways to strengthen their impact by working together.
For its part, the collaborative is helping summer and afterschool organizations become even stronger through assistance with funding, training and exploring new and proven strategies.
Out-of-school programming for high-need communities is dependent on philanthropic and governmental support, and individual donations. This means organizations have to be efficient, nimble, and creative — these revenue streams are never assured. Especially now, in the wake of COVID- 19, all forms of funding are going to be scarce. It has never been more critical for agencies to work smartly and hand-in-hand.
The collaborative is committed to continuing its joint work, responding particularly to the pandemic fallout. Partners already are providing online social-emotional lessons, food delivery, digital classrooms after school, and online social opportunities for families. As the weeks go on, they’ll keep getting more creative about serving kids and families.
At the same time, the partners will continue working to connect with school districts, sharing information that promotes students’ in-school success when classes begin next fall.
The stakes couldn’t be higher as we move into the summer and come out of a paralyzing pandemic that has hit struggling families the hardest. There is no limit to what we can do for them when helpers come together.
Philip Ferrari works with the Montgomery County Summer and Afterschool Collaborative, an initiative organized by Learn to Earn Dayton. Ferrari is the co-owner operator of ECE Program Solutions.
“Always look for the helpers.
There will always be helpers ... If you look ... you will always find hope.” — Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”