How do we support students academic success when they’ve stopped going to school completely?

This is the question our staff found themselves asking when we learned that 91% of our young people were not participating in distance learning. As an organization that trades good grades for studio time, this concerned us. Not just because we know how vital education is, but because we understand the important role educators and school staff play in our students lives. Consistent support from adults is key for students who are already facing extreme barriers to success.

As we spoke with our students about why they were not logging into their zoom classrooms each day, we heard that their need for community, academic accountability and creative connection were just as important as access to high-speed Internet. We responded by creating a socially distanced learning hub for the fall semester generously sponsored by Cox Communications and in partnership with Reality Changers. Every Monday, students enter our socially distanced learning space where they receive one on one academic support from the Reality Changers coaches. Once students have completed their school work, they have the opportunity to participate in our music programs with the David’s Harp team. The collaboration allows us the ability to provide quality support to even more students, as we continue to blend the world of art and academics.

Music continues to be a powerful motivator and connector. Our young people are excited to complete their online learning as it grants them access to our studio facility and staff of Artist Mentors (Art Instructor/Social Workers) to create the music that they are passionate about. Through these sessions of creating beats and writing lyrics, youth get the opportunity to process the pain, grief and loss of this season through their art. And our instructors are there with them step by step, helping them navigate the ups and downs this year has thrown at us all.

Through our work in the education sector with under-resourced youth we’ve identified Five Pillars of Learning that the Distance Learning Hub is providing students:

Mentorship and Social/Emotional care: DHF’s studios are safe (socially distanced) spaces intentionally curated to empower youth voice and create authentic community. As youth engage in the creative process with their peers, social and emotional bonds are created that have had been impactful beyond the studio environment.

Academic Accountability: DHF is committed to providing academic accountability through partnership. Our Artist Mentors interface with teachers, administrative staff and program partners across out 20+ partnerships including San Diego Unified School District, San Diego County Office of Education, Juvenile Court and Community Schools, and local Charter Schools, encouraging students to attend school.

“High Speed” Internet/Computers: DHF will create socially distanced space for students to use their school laptops in addition to providing laptop/tech support to students in this season. Our partner, Cox Communications has provided “Gigbit” speed internet access in the Hub ensuring students have an equitable online learning experience.

Trusted Adult Relationships: Search Institute research has shown the direct correlation between student success and trusted adult relationships. Our Artist Mentors are trustworthy adults who offer support, guidance, and encouragement to help young people overcome challenges and become their best selves. Access to these relationships are critical for youth especially during these trying times.

Quality Art Programming: Our students have access to world class production tools in our studios because we believe in their artistic visions. DHF provides access to training in music production, audio engineering, photography and video creation that ensure students can artistically express themselves, while they learn valuable “soft skills” in the content creation process.

What we’ve found to be true is that students need access to all five of these elements to thrive. They need help completing calculus homework AND need safe spaces to be creative and process complex emotions. The goal of the Distance Learning Hub is to blend these worlds; offering our young people holistic and authentic support from adults who are committed to their growth in all areas.

Our latest video gives a behind the scenes look at our Distance Learning Hub in action.

Thank you to the incredible patterns who continue to make the Distance Learning Hub possible: Moniker Group, Cox Communications, Clare Rose Foundation, Westaf, Swinerton Renewable Energy and Reality Changers.