Working Together, Tacoma Organizations Remove Barriers to Expanded Learning Opportunities
When the bell rings at the end of the day at Tacoma Public School’s DeLong Elementary, some students head home with their parents, some get on the bus, and some of them go to Dragon’s Club. Dragon’s Club is an after-school program that provides Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) like dance, art, and mentorship. Located in the DeLong cafeteria, students just walk down the hall to get to the Dragon’s Club.
“Specifically in my experience, transportation and cost represent two of the most significant barriers.”
DeLong is one of 22 Tacoma Public School now providing on-site access to Expanded Learning Opportunities. Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, Tacoma Public Schools, and numerous community partners have been working together with funding through The Wallace Foundation’s Partnership for Social Emotional Learning Initiative to provide aligned, equitable, high quality social, emotional, and academic development opportunities to students in and out of school at 12 sites. Metro Parks is providing Expanded Learning Opportunities at 10 additional elementary school sites.
Having these kinds of opportunities available to students on-site at their school is a step that Elvin Bucu, Director of Systems Alignment at Graduate Tacoma, identifies as key to addressing issues of equity in education. “Many of our students live in communities that have been historically marginalized, resulting in multiple barriers in the way of those students wishing to participate in Expanded Learning Opportunities. Specifically in my experience, transportation and cost represent two of the most significant barriers. Efforts to bring ELO programs directly to the schools and communities where these students live helps address these barriers.”
“Schools are obviously situated within every neighborhood in Tacoma, so increasing opportunities for organizations to provide programming in schools directly impacts neighborhoods.”
Providing free programs at school sites helps maximize the number of students who can participate in Expanded Learning Opportunities, but there are still challenges that need to be overcome in order to make it happen. With students staying after school for an additional two hours, they need to eat. Many students also need a way to get back home afterward.
This year, Tacoma Public Schools, Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, The Wallace Foundation, and Metro Parks Tacoma have braided multiple funding streams to help address student needs by providing snacks for every student as well as buses to transport students back home. “None of us could do this alone,” said Fahren Johnson, GTCF Senior Program Director, “but with all of us partnering together we have been able to find a way to make it work and make sure we are meeting the needs of students and parents who want to participate.”
Helping increase the number of school sites where on-site ELO programs are offered this year is funding from Tacoma Creates. Tacoma Creates is the voter-approved initiative to increase access to arts, culture, heritage, and science experiences throughout Tacoma by reducing barriers to access and expanding offerings. “There’s a really strong focus on supporting programming that happens in neighborhoods across Tacoma,” said Lisa Jaret, Tacoma Creates Program Manager. “Schools are obviously situated within every neighborhood in Tacoma, so increasing opportunities for organizations to provide programming in schools directly impacts neighborhoods.”
Partnerships across Tacoma organizations are fueling a giant leap in expanded learning opportunities. Success means that students only have to take a few small steps to access it.
To learn more about GTCF’s involvement in Expanded Learning Opportunities through Tacoma Whole Child partnership contact Gina Anstey, Vice President, Whole Child