STORIES
Image of teacher with a student using a laptop.

City Connections Supplies Virtual Learning Activities Hosted on CASE for Kids Website in 11 Council Districts

Single mother Camille Rowdon is a law student studying remotely by day but also doubles as teacher to her 8-year-old daughter during the pandemic. Keeping Luna busy with engaging, meaningful enrichment activities is important. Luna is usually engaged in afterschool activities that keep her actively learning. This semester those out-of-school time activities are being made available online. Resources: http://hcde-texas.org/media/uploads/2020/04/CC-COVID-19-Resource-List-1.pdf As families search for educational and recreational resources outside traditional homework assignments, the Center for Afterschool, Summer and Enrichment for Kids, or CASE for Kids, launches virtual learning activities through a city of Houston partnership called City Connections. The city of Houston and council members have embraced the program since 2015, continually supporting afterschool efforts with funding to nonprofit organizations. Service providers typically travel to schools, churches or community centers to deliver activities ranging from photography to musical theatre to physical fitness to jazz music lessons. Then COVID-19 happened.
“Everyone in greater Houston benefits this semester as these online activities and lessons are available to anyone,” said Lisa Caruthers, director for CASE for Kids. “City Connections promotes crime prevention, child safety, career exploration and enrichment activities. It also supports the mental health of our families.”
CASE for Kids is an afterschool intermediary which provides resources, trainings and funding for students in grades pre-k through 12 in afterschool programs in schools, childcare facilities and community centers and is a division of Harris County Department of Education. This semester, nonprofit organizations in each of the 11 council districts receive a share of $307,517 in city funding from March 9-May 15, 2020. Through requests for proposals, council members select nonprofits to provide services.

Councilwoman Karla Cisneros and CASE for Kids director Lisa Caruthers pose for a City Connections grant recipients Amy Chung and Jackson Guillen of Houston Youth Symphony at City Hall, December 6, 2017.

Council Member Karla Cisneros recently promoted the online enrichment activities for students in her district through her newsletter. Other council members advertising the new, online resources through their websites and eblasts include Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin, District E, and Council Member Abbie Kamin, District C. “Kids’ need access to opportunities and resources,” said Cisneros. “That was true before COVID-19, and it is even truer now. More than ever, the programming provided through the City Connections project is filling a huge need in helping kids grow and learn. In additional to annual funding underwritten by the city, as a council member it’s been my pleasure to invest additional funding in CASE for Kids programming every year.
“Because of the pandemic, we are being challenged to stay apart and must think about new ways to reach goals. I appreciate how virtually all the provider organizations have done exactly that by creatively shifting to use technology to deliver enrichment programs.”
Working directly with kids versus delivering the educational content online is challenging, said Mary Glover, CASE for Kids manager, but the nonprofits adapted quickly. CASE for Kids wanted to assist both the nonprofits and the council members in providing more resources that students and families could use to stay as safe and connected as possible. CASE for Kids City Connections Coordinator Adrian Izaguirre said the nonprofits have “stepped up to the challenge without hesitation.” “For afterschool, the change during COVID has been drastic but also evolutionary,” Izaguirre said. “We’ve heard many times that education in the future would need to find a way to be deliver virtually or digitally, and this pandemic has pushed us to do it sooner than expected.” Source: HCDE