Summer Camps with Our Success Coaches

COVID-19 required a shift in how success coaches practice, engage and communicate with children, youth and families. Success coaches made that shift readily and easily in order to continue providing meaningful services remotely. One example of this is how summer camps and groups were shifted to be facilitated — virtually. Success coaches across the city used their unique ability to build relationships, think creatively and persevere in times of ambiguity and stress to support students to stay connected to each other, to healthy adults, to resources and to their school throughout the school closure.

Our success coach Janelle worked collaboratively with the team at Balwin School to host a virtual summer camp for approximately 50 students who regularly attended over the three-week duration of the camp. Part of this team were our cultural coaches Kevin and Ebyan, REACH Edmonton's program coordinators Sara and Musa — along with their fellow staff.

Each Monday, the team met to put together camp resource kits that the kids would pick up on Monday afternoons. The activity kits contained the required materials for the camp activities that week as well as toys and books that were donated from Santa's Anonymous. The kits were a big hit when the students received them! Some of the activities included crafts, art projects, science experiments, writing prompts, mental health presentation and movement breaks.  When asked what they had learned from participating in this group, students said: "To never give up", "We are a group", "To speak out more", "That I should never give up and have a growth mindset," and "It doesn't matter if we are together in real life or virtual we can still have fun".

In addition to summer camps, a wide variety of virtual groups ran during the school closure including Virtual Youth Groups, Kovid Karaoke, Girl Power, Social Skills Building Club and Lego Club just to name a few. These groups not only served their intended purpose to support students to develop healthy relationships, leadership skills, life skills, literacy and promote wellbeing but were also a source of consistency, routine and familiarity during a time when children's lives were filled with uncertainty. One student said "[group] makes me feel less isolated, even if it was all online," and another said "you gave me something to look forward to".

The activities that the success coaches facilitated during these groups were innovative and engaging. For instance, "Will it Float?" - an online take on the game from the David Letterman show guessing if different items will float in water or not, Indoor scavenger hunts, "Guess Who Kahoot Challenge" with fun or unique facts about all of the students so they can get to know each other and play dough making where the ingredients and instructions were delivered to all of the students and everyone mixed their play dough online together.

The relationships formed during these camps and groups also provided a foundation of trust between the students and their families and the success coaches, which provided opportunities for success coaches to have transformational conversations with youth and their families about family violence, grief and loss, transitions, mental health, peer relationships and financial needs.