Keeping Student Communities Together during COVID-19: Challenges and Innovations

On April 9 from 3-4pm, SSN members convened to share challenges, successes, and questions related to Keeping your Student Community Together.  Below, you’ll find some themes and highlights from the conversation.

Emerging challenges include:

  • Tech (hardware and software) remains a persistent obstacle to creating stable, consistent environments for students. Organizations report that many students lack access to computers, iPads, and wifi. Moreover, online meeting tools aren’t always conducive to community building, and they can require a steep learning curve for students and parents alike.
  • Students struggle with motivation and energy to engage in extracurricular activities. They are exhausted from online school, some struggling with anxiety, depression, and sleeping late into the day.
  • Many activities that were used to build community previously are much more difficult virtually.

Strategies members are using include:

  • Find ways to connect students with each other outside of class time. Shalema Henderson (CARA) suggested encouraging students to start and lead Whatsapp groups so that students can share information with one another as it comes and connect organically.
  • Let students take the lead.  When creating an agenda, ask students what they need that day, and make that a priority.
  • Build in unstructured segments and be flexible with activities.  Jhodessa Reimer (Center for Family Life) suggested offering time for students to check in with one another and hang out, in addition to structured activities.  Members also elevated activities that involve creativity as a way to break up the monotony of learning from home.
  • Be persistent and innovative with outreach. Students may not always be available or responsive, but continuing to reach out and meet students where they are can help.  Anna Falkovich (Center for Supportive Schools) suggested hosting an open Instagram Live, open to anyone from the school to hang out virtually.
  • You don’t have to start with a completely blank slate now that we’re all working from home. Start by revisiting activities that you and your students did before physical distancing, and partnering with students to adapt them to the virtual world.
  • Continue to ask your students what they need. Ray Rodriguez (Goddard Options Center) suggested surveying students regularly to see what they need most and creating guides to help them navigate resources. Other members build questions into regular 1-1 conversations.

Want to join in a future Live? Check out upcoming session topics and RSVP here!

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Lucy Herz

Lucy began working with Sue Lehmann and in 2013, had the opportunity to “officially” launch SSN with Sue and 15 extraordinary nonprofit leaders. Lucy’s excitement for Student Success Network’s mission is rooted in her belief that so much more can be accomplished working together than by working alone. Lucy currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband (Joe) and very cute dog (Maggie).

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