This week, the leaders of Vista College Prep, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley (BGCAZ), UMOM New Day Centers and Northern Arizona University announced a partnership for an innovative virtual summer school program designed to help Phoenix’s most underserved children catch up on lost learning time due to the coronavirus.
The summer school program, known as Vista Virtual, will bring Vista College Prep’s award-winning curriculum online to reach students across the Phoenix area. More than 300 Vista College Prep students have already signed up for the summer school program, and BGCAZ plans to sign up hundreds of additional students. UMOM will offer Vista Virtual to the families they support. Vista Virtual also will partner with Northern Arizona University’s College of Education to help 12 teacher candidates continue their learning by participating in the Vista Virtual program.
“The pandemic has highlighted so many of society’s deep inequities, but educational access does not need to be one of them,” said Julia Meyerson, executive director of Vista College Prep. “We’re so grateful to our partners for working with us to ensure that Phoenix’s most underserved students and communities do not fall behind on learning time.”
National research has shown the COVID-19 slide is likely to be especially profound for low-income students, students of color and English Language Learners. A study from the Northwest Evaluation Association’s Collaborative for Student Growth projected that students are likely to retain only 70 percent of this year’s gains in reading compared with a typical school year, and less than 50 percent in math. For students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, this could leave children permanently behind their more affluent peers.
Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley serve more than 16,000 Phoenix-area members per year, the majority of whom come from low-income households. Boys & Girls Clubs are the largest child-care provider in the Phoenix area and will offer Vista Virtual first to their I.G. Homes and Rosenzweig branches.
“We’re excited to offer Vista College Prep’s award-winning curriculum to our families,” said Marcia Mintz, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley. “Helping families ensure their children do not fall behind because of the coronavirus is part and parcel of our mission to lift up Phoenix’s communities. Not only will this enrichment keep our students on track, they will be better prepared for distance learning in the fall when this will be a new part of their educational journey.”
UMOM New Day Centers, which provides safe shelter and supportive services for more than 170 homeless families, including 342 children, will offer Vista Virtual to many of Phoenix’s highest-need children. “Phoenix’s homeless families have been among those hardest-hit by the coronavirus. Vista Virtual will help us make sure that the children we serve do not fall permanently behind,” said Darlene Newsom, CEO of UMOM.
A key part of the Vista Virtual partnership is the increased scale provided by its partnership with Northern Arizona University’s College of Education. NAU will recruit 12 teacher candidates to train under experienced VCP teachers and help Vista Virtual scale up to reach hundreds of additional students across the Phoenix area. NAU is one of the nation’s leaders in preparing teachers for success—ranking first in Arizona for teacher preparation (and 19th nationwide) in 2016, among hundreds of qualifying schools.
“Our students are eager to dive in and help ensure that Phoenix’s students can keep pace with their peers in wealthier communities,” said Ramona Mellott, dean of NAU’s College of Education. “This partnership will allow our teacher candidates to learn from experienced practitioners at Vista College Prep, while serving communities we deeply care about.”
Brian Stone, a senior lecturer in the College of Education at NAU who directs the summer partnership program, said, “We are thrilled to be a part of this innovative new partnership with Vista College Preparatory, which will provide our teacher candidates with high-quality practicum experiences and serve a great need in the Phoenix community.”
Vista Virtual will offer kindergarten through eighth-grade students access to recorded classes, assignments and live check-ins with teachers on subjects including math and English Language Arts, with a special focus on a small group, guided reading instruction.
About Vista College Prep: Vista College Prep is a network of free public charter schools in Phoenix, AZ, with a longer school day (7:40 a.m.-4 p.m.), small class sizes, and teachers who believe that all students can achieve academic success if they have access to high-quality education. VCP was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a 2018 National Blue Ribbon School.
About Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley (BGCAZ): Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley offers affordable after-school and summer programs for 16,000+ young people in grades K-12. At 26 clubs across most of the Valley, BGCAZ provides award-winning programs designed to change the lives of young people. For more than 70 years, we have been committed to creating equity and opportunity for youth through programs that create pathways to academic, career and workforce opportunities and achievement. We help young people make healthy decisions and focus on social and emotional development to build resilient young adults. Most importantly, we work to develop strong character and leadership skills by creating positive connections to caring adults. Boys & Girls Clubs employs a Formula for Impact for how the organization impacts the life of a child. For more information, visit www.bgcaz.org and @BGCArizona on social channels.
About UMOM New Day Centers: UMOM New Day Centers is a nonprofit serving Maricopa County, Arizona with a mission to prevent and end homelessness with innovative strategies and housing solutions that meet the unique needs of each family and individual. UMOM offers shelter and a wide range of supportive services to families, single women and youth experiencing homelessness. Learn more at http://umom.org.
About Northern Arizona University’s College of Education: Northern Arizona University has long been recognized as a leader in education in Arizona and beyond. Northern Arizona University is the only institution of higher education in Arizona to attain national accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.