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  • Sophie Nagle

Phelps since the summer (hint, we’ve been busy!)

Eighteen months into life with Covid, we knew that it was essential to take a step back and approach the analysis of the year strategically. To do this, we carried out a series of in-house consultations with a professional evaluator, essentially breaking down what was put in place during this crisis year and evaluating what worked, what didn’t and how to improve. More specifically, the methodical approach adopted allowed us to 1. Identify the barriers, and 2. Carry out a deep dive on our offerings.

What did we learn?

The end of 2020 and most of 2021 was an important learning period for everyone. Our findings combined the data, staff observations and a review of our partners allowing us to gain a clear understanding of the impact of the pandemic on our community and on our programs.

The social side-effects of the pandemic were evident with the greatest concern being the disengagement of youth, especially among high school age students. It was clear that channels of communication were influenced by isolation and the fragility of support networks. Throughout this time the Phelps team remained resilient and determined to support Stanstead families. We did this by being mindful that our actions are thorough as well as creative. We took the time to build a data-informed recovery plan.

Key actions put in place:

The recovery plan had 4 main goals:

  1. Outreach campaign: We launched a recruitment campaign to reach out directly to 330 participants and their families via Facebook and phone. Creating personal connections is an important part of our model.

  2. Targeted Program Outcomes: During our workshops, our whole team revisited our activities and the outcomes of our programs, and revised them to match our new reality and the shifting needs of the community.

  3. Team Revitalisation: Phelps values its team and after a particularly challenging year it was important to acknowledge just how demanding the situation was. From there we were able to concentrate on restoring energy and motivation and enthusiasm for the year ahead.

  4. Contingency plans: Constantly changing session logistics to meet government measures was identified as being problematic for our participation rates. We learnt that it is necessary to have a plan A, B and C ready to ensure every program has a built in contingency plan no matter what the covid restrictions are.

What changes were made to the programs?

Moving Spark into the classroom: Traditionally an after-school S.T.E.A.M (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) program for grades 1 through 5, Spark will be taking place in the classroom during school hours. With the collaboration of Sunnyside and Jardin-des-Frontières elementary school teachers it means that we will be able to reach 100% of our target population. Not only will every child have access to our program and enjoy a change of pace but it allows us to attach more children to Phelps with the ultimate goal of guiding them through school to graduation and beyond.

Elementary tutoring moved to Phelps: We created more sessions and smaller groups as our observations show that one-on-one, targeted support is what makes the difference at Phelps. By moving sessions to Phelps, we are ready for potential school restrictions and it helps participants with their transition to high school tutoring as they are familiar and comfortable with the space.

Growing/Building up our Team: We are investing in our talented team. We have learned that more staff present at sessions increases student success but it also means that we are more flexible if volunteers are no longer permitted.

A great start to the school year

The beginning of sessions have been very encouraging with all of our programs reporting an increase in participation and a general positive attitude towards school and the year ahead:

  • Compass - One on Ones for the first week of September are up 150% compared to Sept 1 to 16th, 2020.

  • Global registrations for sessions are up by 47%

  • High school registrations are up by 82% compared to this time last year, averaging 12 students per session (double from last year).

  • Elementary tutoring has increased in participation - particularly for Sunnyside which is reporting a 217% increase.

The main take-away is that Phelps is laser-focused on getting these students back on track and our participants are showing up to do the work! They are proving to be resilient, motivated and conscientious, and we are here to help guide and support them with their learning goals. Knowing that people are rooting for you, that they believe you have the abilities to improve and succeed is an enormous part of our work. We will continue to shout loud and clear for the Stanstead community and all the good things that come out of this strong community.


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