Connecting Spartanburg’s Youth to Out of School Time Opportunities
In Mid-March when students abruptly shifted to at home learning, all time became ‘out of school time.’ Youth serving providers who work with students outside of school hours were already aware of how much learning takes place out of the school building and how the social and emotional needs can be met in the out of school time space. The Out of School Time Collaborative was ready to jump into action to meet the needs of students during the rest of the school year and the summer.
Recognizing the Need
The Out of School Time (OST) Collaborative is a voluntary opt-in network created for the purpose of achieving better results for young people in Spartanburg County through improving, expanding, and sustaining high quality afterschool and summer programming for youth. The OST Collaborative builds upon the work that began with Connect, the Adolescent Health Initiative of the Mary Black Foundation. “Nothing for us, without us,” is a rallying cry of the youth in Spartanburg. This call was heard loud and clear during a listening session held for youth in 2017. The Community Advisory Board and Connect Ambassadors listened to better understand how the community could address their needs. One of the findings from listening sessions was that teens wanted more safe & supportive out of school time opportunities….and so the OST Collaborative was born. The OST Collaborative connects program providers across Spartanburg County under the vision that all young people in Spartanburg County in grades 6-12 have equitable access to high-quality afterschool and summer programs that build the skills and characteristics necessary for success.
The “Summer Shakedown” is an effort started though the Mary Black Foundation to expand access to quality summer programs. Summer 2019, the Spartanburg Academic Movement and OST Collaborative began partnering with the Mary Black Foundation to continue this effort to promote youth participation in a wide-variety of high interest summer activities ranging from the arts and music to academic and leadership development.
Summer Shakedown participants, providers of summer programs designed for youth, must be an OST Collaborative Partner and receive trauma-informed training before being eligible for the Summer Shakedown website listing. Partners have adopted the OST Collaborative vision and mission and agree to the Collaborative’s shared principles which include a commitment to equity & inclusion and applying trauma-informed practices. The OST Collaborative & the Mary Black Foundation have partnered with the USC Upstate’s Child Protection Training Center the past two summers to offer training free of charge to OST providers.
Providing Summer Opportunities During COVID-19
Opportunities on the Summer Shakedown website look different this year, with many of the activities going virtual in response to precautions due to COVID-19. However, there are still some programs offering a limited number of in-person options this summer. In-person summer camps are recommended to make adjustments based on CDC suggestions for Youth and Summer Camps, but interested participants should check with each individual camp to learn details about their strategies for implementing health protocols.
While funding can serve as barriers to connect youth to summer learning experiences, the Summer Shakedown has also offered scholarships to participants in previous years. This year, over 75 scholarships have already been approved for youth to attend OST partner programs. Although additional scholarships are no longer available through Summer Shakedown funding, several providers are still accepting program participants, and individual providers may also offer financial assistance.
It’s not too late to get involved with a summer program. Be sure to check out the summer shakedown page to review the programs available and reach out to providers to register youth grades 6th-12th in Spartanburg County.