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Phelps returns for the 2020-2021 School Year!

After 6 months of intermittent schooling, we are excited to get back to seeing our wonderful participants and we look forward to working together to help them keep up, work hard and thrive. Starting September 15th, Phelps will be welcoming students with open but distant arms for tutoring at both elementary and secondary levels. We will be offering online and in-person sessions for high school tutoring, in-person sessions for elementary tutoring, as well as the early attachment Spark program that was forced to stop this Spring.

 

Our model is built on the individual support we are able to give our participants. To ensure another successful year, we are currently looking for volunteers for in-person tutoring sessions at the elementary and high school level. For more information, please contact emackinnon@phelpshelps.ca.

 

We have put in place strict measure to keep our kids and tutors safe - our COVID-19 Protocol details our approach.

 

LOCKDOWN SIDE-EFFECTS? Now with back to school or return to workplaces, there is a feeling of apprehension or perhaps it is a delayed reaction to the last 6 months of a hugely restricted lifestyle that was previously unthought-of for most people. Will there be a second wave? Will there be psychological side effects in the long-run on our children, on us? 

 

For now, there is not enough data to be able to answer these questions and the measures in place are based on what we have learnt since spring. There is increasing awareness that keeping children isolated from their peers and consistent learning environments negatively impacts families as well as the vitality of the community. Other barriers to education that have been widely publicized include the lack of internet connections at home.This has been a concern for a while, but as with many other COVID-related issues, it has been brought to the forefront of the many barriers affecting academic success.

 

SOCIO-ECONOMIC GAPS, especially in rural areas have widened. Helping children with school work is low on the priority list when many families are dealing with the daily stress of how to pay next month’s rent, buy groceries or deal with job insecurity. We have seen first-hand that our vulnerable students face more barriers - food insecurity, poor or no internet access, poor sleep patterns, less opportunity for family support with learning makes it that much harder to get back on track. The issues highlighted, combined with the fact that many highschoolers got a taste for full-time employment as well as a prolonged period of no school work means we are anticipating a higher demand for our programs.

 

WHAT ABOUT PHELPS AMIDST ALL OF THIS? As previously mentioned in our last blog post, “Phelps Turns Digital” during April, in the height of lockdown, Phelps was able to launch online tutoring specifically tailored to high-schoolers and organized to fit around the new schedules of the many youth who decided to join the workforce. This support continued throughout July and some of August with the pilot program “Second Chance,” which offers summer tutoring to those wanting to catch up in their weaker subjects or retake exams at the end of the summer.

 

THE RESULTS ARE POSITIVE. Encouragingly, students who had not attended Phelps programs in several years reached out for help. The students who in the past have demonstrated the most behavioural challenges and resistance to school work were requesting extra math tutoring and even signed up for Second Chance, despite not having the pull-in of exam retakes. 83% of participants from the online tutoring and Second Chance programs combined, reported  improved academic confidence with 52% saying their organizational skills improved. 

 

PHELPS HELP'S COLLABORATION WITH THE SCHOOL BOARDS and the local schools they serve is paramount to the success of the programs. Fostering communication and brainstorming together is vital to reach the common goal of improved graduation rates. For example, Phelps was able to address the issue of no internet connection for their participants, collaborating with the school boards to identify and distribute wifi sticks to all Stanstead participants who did not have access to the online learning material. Due to our unique position in the academic community, we were able to act as a liaison between the schools and families to encourage and improve communication for 86% of our participants - no small feat when striving to improve attitudes around schools and teachers!

 

MOVING FORWARD. Our accumulated experience in working with young people since 2012 has been validated by what we have learnt from the COVID situation. Young people thrive when they have individualized support from people who care about their success. The bizarre life we have all been leading has highlighted the challenges the educational system faces but it has also presented an opportunity to change things. The importance of attachment to the community, feelings of belonging, and an awareness that our young people need to know someone is rooting for them.

 

We look forward to working with our students to help them keep up, know that they are supported, and help them to recognize that they have the ability to succeed. Despite the unique challenges of rural towns, we strongly believe that we will continue to see the substantial changes in our youth and renewed vitality in the town of Stanstead.

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Phelps turns digital

Clea tutoring Kim online

As we settle into our new normal, we wanted to share what we have been up to and give some insight into the many ways we are still operating. Despite the gradual reopening of schools and daycares across Quebec, Phelps Helps, along with most other organizations are still required to remain closed. We are, however, far from inactive. Behind the scenes, Phelps staff continue to be committed to supporting the participants and their families, no matter where they are. We are working remotely and fine-tuning our already creative and adaptable techniques to ensure we are delivering our best to the community. 

 

During the first week of school closures and the ensuing loss of employment for many in Stanstead, emergency support was our priority, and as an organization that is central in the community, we were one of the first to identify the families that would be in need of emergency intervention. Along with other referrals, coordination of services was set up with Cab Rediker to ensure we were contributing to the food security of these families.

 

Needs Assessment

As the extent of the disruption and the time people would be spending in their homes became clear, we adapted and changed our model to fit with the new reality. 

As you know, many of our participants were already balancing on the very fine line of failing or dropping out of high school. In response to this situation, we set up a needs assessment and outreach initiative to have a clear understanding of how we can best support our kids. Every one of our 197 participant families were contacted, allowing us to provide comfort and reassurance  while completely assessing the situation. The needs assessment exposed the following insights:

  • 24/55 high school participants have been identified as ‘AT RISK’ of failing this school year and/or dropping out.
  • 29/55 high school participants agreed to start online tutoring
  • 23/29 who have agreed to support are ‘AT RISK’
  • 6/55  high school participants have limited or no internet access
  • 54/55 have access to online learning devices
  • High school online support: One-on-one

High school online support: One-on-one

As school closures have a greater impact on our high school participants, we prioritized our efforts on this vulnerable group first. Within one week of the needs assessment, we created a new service to respond to the needs of our participants. On April 14 we launched an online tutoring service that, in its third week is providing an impressive 35+ hours of one-on-one online tutoring and is set to increase to 45 hours of support to 60 children. Our goal is to help guide the students through their remaining school year so that they possess the maximum of chances for passing their school year and to reduce the increased risk of dropping out. We have worked in tandem with the schools to not only identify those at most risk but to troubleshoot any logistical obstacles (lack of device, safe drops of hardcopies of school work etc.). During our needs assessment, we were able to identify those without internet at home and offer sessions over the phone. The online tutoring and sessions we have developed will continue throughout the remaining school year and beyond until the end of July so that school work and be caught up and to set up our valued participants for a successful return to school in September.

 

Elementary transition: Online support

We know that many of our students become disenfranchised with school during the daunting transition from their local elementary to the large, regional high school a long distance from home. We are working closely with the schools to identify the grade sixers who are at risk of failing and have lost precious time with their school work. From now until the end of July, we will be providing 1 hour a week to approximately 15 students to help close any academic gaps they have and start high-school in September at grade level. The added advantage of creating connections and attaching these vulnerable new high schoolers to Phelps early on.

 

Spark: hand-on problem solving

Our younger participants will also benefit from our extended programming with packs including a stimulating STEAM activity, free books, games and local resources, created and safe dropped to the homes of 60 children. Participants will have access to a preparatory video to help prompt higher level thinking and guide them so they can be successful on their own. The group will  subsequently meet online to discuss and analyze the fun activity.

 

Compass

Our compass program is as strong as ever with our dedicated coordinator accommodating the changing needs of students and businesses and offering services online.  So far, 5 have been supported with post-secondary applications, 13 with scholarships and bursaries and 4 with AFE (Aide Financières aux Études) applications. 10 participants are currently being supported with our summer jobs workshops and 6 participants have successfully found summer employment. The Compass program is also collaborating with the UPA (Union Producteurs Agricole) campaign to encourage youth to work on local farms over the summer.

 

Volunteers and board

To help support this valuable work, we have successfully launched a volunteer recruitment strategy which resulted in 11 new, Canada-wide volunteers, many of which are much needed math tutors. We will be extending our recruitment campaign in order to source volunteers for afternoon and evening work sessions in order to fit around the high-school online learning schedule. Our new pool of online volunteers has made us very dynamic in the way we offer services and this will only reinforce our current offerings.

 

The new model that we at Phelps have been able to put into place so quickly was possible because of the dedication and commitment of the team who's adaptability of the team has reinforced our dedication to the work we do. Collectively, we increased our hours by 27% to answer the call that came to us from the community. We were needed now, more than ever.

 

 

For more information, please do not hesitate to contact us at info@phelpshelps.ca or call us on 819 704 0799.

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COVID-19 Update

Phelps Helps would like to share the following updates about our response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The health and safety of our team members, participants, and the community are essential to us. With the news that school closures will continue until May 1st, Phelps Helps has taken the following measures for the month of April:

  • Phelps Helps offices will remain closed.
  • No program sessions or special events are being held during this period.
  • A reduced team of staff will continue working remotely.

As this is a fluid situation, our team has devised the following action plan to inform our programming and ensure that our participants and our community continue to receive the services that they need now more than ever.

  1. Phelps team members will be contacting all participants and their families to reassure them and assess what their particular needs may be at this time. We will also be contacting our partners, schools, and other community organizations to streamline services and ensure there is no duplication.
  2. Evaluate needs assessed and create a comprehensive action plan to best address the most urgent needs shared; this may result in an adaptation of our current programs. 

Please note: if the needs expressed fall outside of Phelps' mandate, we will provide referrals to community partners who can assist them.   

 

The Phelps Helps Action Plan will be shared in the coming weeks.

 

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