BRIGHT SPOT: PASA, Rhode Island
The Providence After School Alliance (PASA) has been operating for 17 years in Rhode Island and is a part of Every Hour Counts, a national coalition of citywide out-of-school time organizations dedicated to providing fun, high-quality learning opportunities to youth in underserved communities. And like many out-of-school time organizations, PASA is morphing its afterschool system to comply with public health guidance while still offering kids high-quality program options. Pre-pandemic, 2,000 youth participated in PASA-coordinated programming in school sites every year. PASA contracted with 30 to 50 external organizations to be able to offer middle and high schoolers a menu of hands-on, experiential learning programs where they could connect with their peers and a caring adult.
According to Hillary Salmons, Executive Director of PASA, because of the ongoing health crisis, on-site programming in school buildings is not a possibility this fall 2020. Providence schools are not fully operational yet, and administrators do not need an increased risk of an additional pod of adults on campus. Since the out-of-school time opportunities that PASA offers Providence youth are an integral part of a holistic teaching and learning approach, programming will continue to run.
Instead of schools, with coordination support from City of Providence Mayor Elorza’s office, Salmons pivoted to municipal parks and recreation centers to house programming. Typically, the youth that PASA serves are bussed into schools. Salmons mapped the zip codes of PASA’s participant population to rec centers across the city and was able to secure four sites that are in walking distance to PASA’s youth. No more commutes. The kids will be able to join programming outside and indoors within their own neighborhoods, meaning that PASA and the Department of Parks are able to meet shared goals of supporting youth and being responsive to community needs and interests. As an intermediary organization, rather than a set program, PASA can be flexible. “That’s the beauty of a system” Salmons says. PASA coordinators can think in terms of team operations, rather than site-specific boxes.
SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW
The rec sites will be new to PASA, accommodating about 60 youth per site per day organized in pods, Monday through Thursday. Virtual programming will be new, as well, which PASA will offer on a wide-scale when the weather turns colder and outdoor activities cannot be safely run. Still, the PASA programming names will remain the same. The ‘After Zone’ for middle schoolers and ‘The Hub’ for high schoolers will keep on going, since they are recognized names in the community and indicate a continuity of care from last year to this.
Also to remain is PASA’s commitment to educational equity. PASA programs are free to all participants. This is especially important since 98% of the youth that participate in PASA are from low-income families. And, according to Salmons, most of these youth do not have access to fee-based, privately run recreational or extended learning opportunities. In turn, without PASA, they would not necessarily be exposed to a whole-child, positive youth development centered-approach to education. Salmons emphasizes that “the afterschool community is filling these [education] holes in innovative ways” and in ways that create community and youth relationships with caring adults. After all, “knowing how you are as a person is an important equity agenda.”
PASA is one of many examples highlighted in the new Bright Spots Collection, funded by the SD Bechtel Jr. Foundation. The collection will be live in a few weeks, and complements and extends the work of the Readiness Projects by offering examples of the ideas and strategies promoted by social sector partnerships. In the meantime, we’ll feature Bright Spots in a special series on this blog. If you have one you want us to check out, leave a response below or email us at email@example.com.