Persistence in Youth Engagement

KOM Career Support

The transition for youth programming through the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been without its challenges. For KOM, it means moving afterschool activities, youth career pathways, and the youth and family coach programs online.

Youth Career Pathways is the newest youth program that was introduced this past fall. Our staff work with youth ages 14-24 helping explore career options. As this program has transitioned online, the goal is to continue to engage students and build community. This has been challenging for our staff to navigate as in-person interactions are limited. However, they are looking into alternate curriculum design and safe ways to bring youth together. Coordinators are hoping to utilize outdoor space for summer activities where they can follow social distancing guidelines.

KOM Academic Support

The academic year program, which ended this June and will pick up again in the Fall, is geared for after school. These after-school activities focus on social and emotional learning. This has helped our youth build confidence and reach academic goals through tutoring support. When Saint Paul Public schools began distance learning this spring, our staff were able to help students use online platforms to see their assignments, get connected with teachers, and ensure effective communication for the student. In addition to our staff, we had KOM volunteers continue to tutor virtually.

Our Youth and Family Coaches fulfill a positive role for our students. This involves helping to navigate challenges that may inhibit the students’ success. The transition to remote work for this program has had unique challenges as coaches and students must build a relationship via phone calls. We are hoping to have some level of in-person interactions once it is safe. In the meantime, our Youth and Family Coaches are focused on maintaining the students’ motivation.

Translation services have led to success for supporting students in their assignments. Focusing on explaining homework assignments and verbal translations helps to have the staff  build foundational relationships with them. Program Director Sara Johnson says that “staff are there to take time with students, so they really understand the content and build social skills.” KOM aims to strengthen communication by providing youth with a dedicated family coach.

Checking In with Another Local Youth Organization

The Karen Football Association is eager to continue their work with youth despite the challenges that COVID has brought. Their mission is “to unite the community’s passion for soccer with the importance of gender equity, while giving opportunities to young women and men that sit outside the mainstream of youth sports system.” Their executive director and founder, Kyle Johnson, discussed how they plan to adapt.

Kyle mentioned KFA may need to put things on hold for soccer. The organization was not able to continue in the spring, and plans to remain on pause for the summer.  In the past, they have had camps all over the country and plan to hopefully create more connections within the US. KFA is planning to set potential dates for matches and tournaments for 2021. Additionally, they are looking forward to hosting a winter camp. Recently they have been holding practices with social distancing. The Minnesota Department of Health has released a statement of support for scrimmaging and games. Because of that, KFA has started training sessions for girls, and are excited to get back into things.

Though things have slowed down, KFA has been able to focus on the business side of things with advertising and career path initiatives. They recently launched KFA Digital, which has been working with youth from high school to college who are interested in photography and graphic design. This initiative is something unique to KFA that demonstrates the organization’s commitment to youth empowerment. KFA looks forward to being able to give more attention to the Karen community story and what it means to play for a national team. Kyle says they are “playing for the next generation” to have great opportunities ahead of them.

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