In 2019, Yes Our Kids Can (Yes) committed to expand its educational program to four schools across St. Thomas and St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, providing educational materials to twelve teachers and 252 students and their caregivers.
Yes Our Kids Can offers an online family engagement program that targets students, families, and teacher to improve learning outcomes. For students across the four expansion sites, Yes will deliver entertaining and engaging songs, videos, activities, games, and printed classroom materials. These activities encourage student engagement and increase their motivation to learn, with the goal of improving attendance, and reading levels. For caregivers, Yes will deliver motivating, success-oriented messages and content to up to five caregivers per student by sending messages directly to their smartphones three times a week. These messages will support conversations at home about college and career attainment. For teachers, Yes will provide a supplemental curriculum on subjects including literacy, social and emotional learning, social studies, math, college and career preparedness, and technology. This curriculum empowers teachers to inspire students and their families, including additional strategies for engaging with students who are struggling academically. In addition, through this commitment, Yes will also offer reading resources to parents and caregivers to support student reading throughout the summer.
Yes will engage with education officials and stakeholders during the summer of 2019 to understand student needs and career pathways, and tailor the program accordingly. The team will also conduct select site visits; provide online training for school leadership; and conduct pre-and-post surveys for students, teachers, and caregivers. The Yes program is delivered online, allowing the team to monitor usage analytics. Yes uses a combination of online and in-person support, and monitors student, teacher, and caregiver engagement to identify any additional support needed at participating schools.
June 2019: Meet with officials, stakeholders and conduct potential school site visits
July 2019: Select schools; Begin weekly email communication with school principals and administrators
August 2019: Introduce program for teachers and school staff; Conduct site visits as needed
September 2019: Provide online training for school leadership and teacher training; Begin “Month at a Glance” Preview video for school administrators and teachers; Conduct pre-survey for students through in person one-on-one interviews; Conduct parent and teacher pre-surveys; Continue ongoing campus communication
October 2019: Implement program at schools; Begin “Month at a Glance” sessions for school administrators and teachers; Continue ongoing communication with school leadership
November 2019 – April 2020: Conduct “Month at a Glance” sessions for school administrators and teachers; Continue ongoing communication with school leadership
May 2020: Conduct post surveys for teachers, students and parents
June - August 2020: Provide literacy resources for students and caregivers (Summer Reading Program)
A 2010 U.S. census found that 22% of the people in the U.S. Virgin Islands live in poverty, where the effects of poverty acutely impact young children. According to a 2014 USVI Kids Data Count, 67% of children on the islands were on the SNAP Food Assistance Program (2014 USVI Kids Data Count).
Furthermore, the same studies also showed that 46% of public school third graders cannot read well enough to be prepared for fourth grade curriculum. 53% of five-year-old children on the island also do not have the “necessary motor, speech or basic interaction skills needed for a successful kindergarten education” (2014 USVI Kids Data Count).
After Hurricanes Irma and Maria, these challenges have been exacerbated. After the hurricanes, children missed school, disrupting their education, their routine, and posing additional challenges for parents, many of whom rely on schools to support their children as they report to work. Serving the educational needs of children in the U.S. Virgin Islands is critical to support their ongoing development, future opportunities in the workforce, and alleviation of poverty. To do so, the whole community, students, parents and teachers alike, must be engaged. With economic pressures and in the aftermath of the Hurricanes Irma and Maria, this has become increasingly difficult.
Yes Our Kids Can is seeking operational funding from other partners aligned with its educational mission. The team also aims to connect with educators on the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as others offering educational experiences to students in the region, such as museums. The team welcomes partners with expertise on careers available to students in U.S. Virgin Islands to ensure students are equipped with the skills to enter career pathways in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The team is also interested in meeting with stakeholders in the communications sector to expand the reach of this program.
Yes Our Kids Can is willing to share the student, parent, and teacher qualitative and quantitative findings from the research in early education that will be conducted in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Primavera Strategic Planning and CI:NOW of UT Health San Antonio is currently conducting groundbreaking research among 1,000 at-risk six-year olds and 850 of their families, with the results available this Summer 2019. Yes aims to conduct the same research with participating students, parents and teachers in the U.S. Virgin Islands during the 2019-2020 school year.