Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Woodcraft Rangers (WR) in Los Angeles, California remains at the forefront of out-of-school time learning opportunities in the Greater Los Angeles area. Prior to the pandemic, our programs were reaching more than 14,000 participants annually in 73 school- and park-based programs. As soon as schools closed, WR leadership quickly identified, addressed, and prioritized the immediate and ongoing needs of youth and families by creating and launching a suite of innovative digital and analog programs.
The first program was BIRCH, a text-based caregiver support platform that initially subscribed 7,500 families to keep them connected. It also supported our youth workers during this period of isolation. The program was conceived in March, developed in April, and launched in May 2020. It continues to reach thousands of families in English and Spanish with activities and parent support tips. Last week, we sent our millionth text message to WR families! This BIRCH parent says it best: “The program helps us to go through the quarantine day by day without feeling emptiness.”
Next, WR launched a Digital Enrichment program. Between April and July, staff produced 84 enrichment activity videos, from sports and dance to driver’s education and college prep, that engaged youth via the WR YouTube channel and Zoom. When schools remained closed in the fall of 2020, WR pivoted its entire afterschool operation to a digital format. To support student at-home online engagement, WR has begun delivering club kits to students, including materials they need to participate in STEM, Visual Arts, Sports, and Culinary Arts clubs. Last month, the WR team mobilized to send 1,900 activity kits home to youth and families to keep them exploring hands-on! See more about our D2Y (Direct to Youth) service here.
And, of course, most important to Woodcraft everywhere– camp! As soon it was determined that summer camp would be cancelled, WR created Camp-on-Delivery (COD), which provided three weekends of virtual family camp to more than 200 participants over the summer of 2020. It included three days of activities facilitated by WR staff in both English and Spanish via Zoom. While vastly different from traditional sleepaway camps, families who participated said that COD provided an opportunity for their family to come together for quality time and an escape from the stressors of sheltering at home during this pandemic. Gladys, who enrolled with her children, shared: “Camp-on-Delivery felt like a return to childhood. Being able to share that with my kids was a beautiful thing.”
WR has also been deeply engaged in the racial and justice awakening happening in the US and is collaborating with other agencies to support the implementation of some watershed investments in youth and communities. Acknowledging the work ahead to achieve true racial justice and Seton’s belief that Woodcraft Way should benefit people 4-94, WR created its Lifecraft College and Career Accelerator Program. The program is designed to help younger WR staff develop the skills, support, and social connections necessary to obtain college degrees and to pursue careers with the potential for a greater lifetime income. Citing the strong positive correlation between income level and health outcomes, Kaiser Permanente awarded WR a seed grant to launch a Lifecraft cohort of Woodcraft Rangers.
Julee Brooks and team, December 2020.