ROANOKE, Va. – After assessing the community’s needs, YMCA of Virginia’s Blue Ridge is looking to expand its programming for virtual learners.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Y has been supporting working parents by offering child care, but the enrichment centers they’ve created for virtual learners go beyond that. These centers are giving kids a designated space for learning and individual help.
There are a total of five enrichment centers across Botetourt, Roanoke, Salem and Rockbridge. The largest is at the Kirk Family Y where over 50 Roanoke City School students are able to do their virtual assignments.
The program is weekdays, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. In the first part of the day, students focus on virtual learning and can get help from staff and volunteers. The second half of the day kids either continue virtual learning if its required in their schedule or they can do physical and outdoor activities.
President and CEO Mark Johnson said some of the centers still have open slots and there is financial assistance available.
“As parents who were planning for their children to go to school, for that not to cost anything and then suddenly now you’re paying for that time we knew the financial piece would be an enormous part. And so we’re trying to find out every resource we can get; whether it’s CARES money or whether it’s localities,” said Johnson.
The Y is steering people to sign their student up for the enrichment centers through United Way’s Smart2Start that way they can access some funding. You can also contact the YMCA directly.
Looking at the demand for this program, Johnson said they are still needing to grow.
There are sites in Roanoke County and the city of Roanoke they could have kids learning at, but there’s no staffing for it.
Virtual learning requires a lot of a child’s time and a lot of attention and support from an adult so Johnson is hoping people with a heart to work with children will step up.
“Community members maybe in the past that said, ‘Oh, I don’t really need to do that or want that particular job', but recognizing that this is a need across our country and it’s a way to kind of step up and serve and make a difference in the community by going to work in these enrichment centers and things like that right now,” said Johnson.
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