Edina Community Education: A New Summer Staffing Model

Young people in a socially distant summer program.

In a typical summer, many programs offered through Edina Community Education are staffed by outside vendors. Hiring outside instructors with niche skills for sports camps and computer classes was just part of ‘the way it’s always been done.’

Until, of course, COVID-19 forced every organization to think differently about the way things have always been done.

The old model didn’t work well in the new COVID-19 realities of summer programming. “Many summer youth development and enrichment programs cancelled their offerings really early,” noted Cheryl Gunness, Community Involvement Coordinator, Edina Community Education. “We decided to wait; we take our work of serving the needs of the community really seriously.”

The waiting paid off. Opportunities to offer summer programming opened up, but things weren’t going to look exactly the same as previous summers.

Edina Community Education needed to build in more flexibility by quickly adding courses in response to rapidly-changing guidelines. They also needed to switch to smaller class sizes that promoted social distancing, but meant revenues were lower and less viable for outside vendors.

“Mission-wise, we realized we had a great leadership opportunity for older students,” Cheryl added. High school students started leading clubs in areas that reflected their talents and passions, like ping pong and baseball.

Then instead of outside vendors, Edina Community Education hired six local college students who had experience working with youth. These young adults were tasked with developing their own youth camps — Ninja Warrior Camp and Spy Camp have been particularly popular — writing the curriculum and then executing the theme camps much to the delight of younger students.

“Seeing those connections and leadership opportunities for young people has worked on so many levels,” Cheryl reported. “Now we find that the younger kids are looking for the opportunities to do the clubs and camps with the older youth.”