Back in February, things were really humming along for Edina Give & Go.
The organization provides scholarships so that Edina Public Schools students from low-income homes can participate in just about any afterschool program of the student’s choice. Young people are eligible for up to $1,000 annually ($500 during the school year and another $500 for summer) that is paid directly to the afterschool program.
Edina Community Education is one of Edina Give & Go’s biggest community partners, and “In the first 48 hours Community Ed’s summer registration was open, we went through 90% of our planned summer budget,” marveled Maggie McCracken, director of Edina Give & Go. “Students were clearly excited for the programs.”
COVID-19 meant suddenly there was a lot of uncertainty around those registrations. “We help young people access existing programs,” explained Maggie. So when restrictions began lifting across the state, “we were super excited that Community Ed didn’t say no to the challenge.”
Edina Community Education was nimble in their response, relocating hip hop and babysitter camps outdoors, instituting curbside drop off and pick up, and reconfiguring camps like ballet, computer coding and STEM to ensure social distancing, but the message wasn’t getting to all families. In fact, many families assumed activities were cancelled.
“We’re used to removing financial barriers,” remarked Maggie. “But with COVID-19, we learned the importance of removing information barriers. We wanted to do everything we could to keep the same number of kids engaged in programs, so early on, our biggest task was family outreach.”
Edina Give & Go hit the phones, calling families multiple times (and sometimes in multiple languages) to “remind families that they still had their scholarship funds available and could enroll in Community Ed or other programs taking place in person or online,” Maggie recalled. “Because we’d already established that relationship with Community Ed, things were able to fall into place more quickly and more easily.”
Those phone calls with families were also the impetus of a new partnership. During those exchanges, many families expressed interest in summer academic support.
Edina Give & Go researched tutoring options in the area, and developed a new partnership with College Nannies & Tutors. “Usually we let families determine the specific programs, and we follow their lead,” added Maggie. “But just finding a tutor was too big of a roadblock for many.” Families still have the option to choose other tutoring services, but “having a starting point really helps them; the tutoring partnership has been a big success,” she added.
“We have learned a ton,” Maggie reflected. “This experience has deepened existing partnerships and crated new ones. We’re finding new ways to understand the needs of families and how to meet them — and that’s what I’m most proud of.”