When our leadership team started On the Road in 2015, we knew we wanted to be more than an afterschool program. That’s because we know if we wanted to truly address the 6,000-hour learning gap that many of our youth face, we needed to create a welcoming space where youth felt understood and supported first.
That’s why our focus has always been on creating a welcoming and inclusive environment where our youth can build trusting adult relationships with our team and connections among themselves.
Part of the reason this pandemic has been so challenging is that it eliminated the in-person connections that have become so important to our program. But we also know that the reality of virtual learning, which will most negatively impact disadvantaged youth, meant that they needed us now more than ever.
So, when we found out that the majority of our youth would no longer be in the school building this semester, we quickly pivoted to a robust virtual program that would allow us to continue holding Career Enrichment Workshops and other learning opportunities so that we could continue our mission of empowering youth and closing the learning gap.
But we knew in addition to the virtual courses we would be offering, we also wanted to add a personal touch that reminded our youth that we still are, and always will be, there for them.
And that’s how the idea of our new Learning Kits came about!
Each Learning Kit includes a hands-on learning activity, such as a STEM or Art project, and On the Road SWAG, such as our program a t-shirt, as well as hand sanitizers and masks.
Learning Kits will be delivered on a weekly basis to all of our youth who are enrolled and actively participating in our middle school programs; kits will be delivered to our high school youth on a monthly basis.
“This is something different for us to do as a program and a way to keep our kids engaged, even though we’re not with them in person, Deanna Reed, our Director of Community and School Partnerships, said.
Each Learning Kit will also include a “community surprise,” which will be in the form of a gift card or other item donated by a community organization.
Climate Action of the Valley (CAAV) was one of the donors that stepped up to participate in the Learning Kits. They donated copies of the book, One Earth: People of Color Protecting Our Planet by Anuradha Rao, which contains short biographies of twenty environmental defenders who vary in ethnic, cultural, and religious origin.
By gifting copies of the book, Cathy Strickler, founder of CAAV, said she hopes that CAAV can reach young people who are choosing what their own path will be.
“We thought by giving the books to the next generation, we could inspire them to take action to prevent the problems that climate change is causing,” Cathy said.
Carrie Waits and Lynn Smith, members of CAAV’s steering committee, drop off donated copies of One Earth to Deanna Reed.
Every middle and high school youth will receive a copy of the book in one of our Learning Kits, which are packed in our office at The Perch each week and delivered safely and contactless by Youth Leaders to each youth’s home. During this time, we also deliver the Emerging Chefs kits and any other Career Enrichment Course supplies that participating youth need for their classes or workshops.
“The Learning Kits have been a wonderful way for us to supplement our Virtual Program with hands-on learning activities,” Brent Holsinger, our Founder and President, said.
Brent said it’s also been wonderful to witness the community join in on this effort.
“The Learning Kits have been an awesome way to get the community involved and we have loved seeing all the different community organizations and local businesses step up to support families during this difficult time.”
Rocktown Rotary was another one of our initial supporters, donating more than 30 gift cards to Amazon, Food Lion, and Walmart as a way to support our youth and their families.
The leadership team at Rocktown Rotary, which includes Meghan Schenker-Fulcher, Marlee Sharp, and Kelly Long, said that this opportunity to get involved with our Learning Kits fit their mission of partnering with other organizations to serve the needs of our community.
“After hearing Deanna Reed’s inspiring words about the work that On the Road Collaborative does, we jumped at the chance to help support the mission,” the team said.
Grilled Cheese Mania, Greens and Grains, Papa John’s, Applebee’s, Jersey Mike’s Subs, Domino’s, and BBQ Ranch have also donated gift cards to their restaurants that each family can use.
“We wanted the Learning Kits to be something that the entire family can look forward to,” Deanna said. “And I hope the families feel that no matter what, whether we can have program in person or not, we are 100% invested in our youth and their families.”
By showing up each week and delivering thoughtfully curated kits that will directly close the learning gap— an opportunity that’s only made possible because of amazing donors like you— we hope our youth understand how much we believe in them.
“We just want them to know that we still support them, that we’re still here for them,” Deanna added.
To help ensure that we can continue providing these kinds of educational opportunities and hands-on career experiences to our most vulnerable youth, we invite you to join our Promise Campaign.
Our end-of-the-year campaign is an amazing chance to give back to our next generation of leaders as we work together to set our youth on the road to college and career.
So, over the next 30 days, we’re on a mission to raise $30,000 dollars to continue supporting our next generation of leaders.
We hope you’ll join us as we work together to empower our youth with a better understanding of themselves and the possibilities ahead of them.