Center Helps Students Who Have Fallen Behind
By Dianne Anderson
Some things seem to be getting back to semi-normal for the kids at NorthPointe Apartments where they are all masked up, and happy to be in the same room seeing eye to eye.
At the Success in Challenges Homework Assistance Center, students from 6-16 years old and their tutors are making up for lost time for students that have fallen behind through the pandemic.
Paula Wood, Executive Director of the nonprofit Success in Challenges, said they have been busy this past year. Most of the families they serve are single-headed households, low-income moms. Many of their kids are in foster care with at least one of their parents incarcerated.
“We’re struggling now with a lot of kids behind, even more behind than before,” Mrs. Wood said.
The grassroots nonprofit Success In Challenges program was started 17 years ago by her husband Dr. Rev. Leon Wood, including the Long Beach Freedom School as part of the National Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools program.
Year-round, they offer after-school help, tutoring, arts and crafts, sports and performing arts. She is seeing a lot of new families at the complex, some are second-generation younger brothers and sisters.
But the pandemic slowed their participation rate, and she hopes the numbers will bounce to rebuild their student population.
“Even though we advertised, more and more are finding out we’re there. A lot of families are finding out that we’re back,” she said.
Kids need a sense of consistency, and enrichment activities to keep them engaged and focused. For now, she said they serve about 65 students with a variety of mentoring, homework assistance and academic programs.
With help from student interns at Cal State University Long Beach and Long Beach City College, the center also provides another layer of learning, especially for core subjects, Math and English.
She said that students are glad to be back in person, and parents and students are more comfortable lately with participation, but a little coaxing helps. The program offers prizes and they have also distributed grocery gift cards for those that need help with extra food, and PPP equipment, as well as diapers for seniors.
As part of a city grant a few months back they gave out over 100 Chromebooks along with hotspots.
Mrs. Wood says she tries to go the extra mile to get them in the door.
“We have to get them excited to get them to want to stay because they could go home, hang out with their friends and play video games, and watch TV,” she said.
They also offer other community resources, including vaccine information, and they have volunteered with local clinics to encourage the community to get their shots.
On October 28, they held their Harvest Festival. After that, the goal is to try to get turkeys and baskets ready for local families now with the holidays looming. Food drives are picking up speed, and they will be looking for support from a few churches. At their Success in Challenges facility located at 4508 Atlantic Ave, one of the churches that rents from them also holds a food giveaway each Friday.
She said their program plans to start out their holiday distribution by providing food first for their NorthPoint families, which is the priority, and expanding their outreach.
“We focus on the North Long Beach cluster, giving out turkeys and maybe food baskets. I also get support from another organization that used to give boxes of food but because of COVID, they’re now giving out gift cards or cash,” she said.
For now, they are calling on volunteers to help with the local students.
Reaching the hardest to reach students was tough pre-pandemic, but she emphasized that it has become more challenging as families and support systems have waned, and the kids became disconnected from their studies.
Many students weren’t prepared for virtual study, and missed out on classes because digital learning at the start of the pandemic wasn’t required.
Low-income students were completely left out of the learning environment.
“Once schools mandated that students [go] virtual, many of our kids found themselves not being able to learn virtually. Now we’re finding more of our students needing one on one tutoring,” she said. “Those that have fallen behind in learning, African American males are behind everybody.”
To help, or get help, contact Paula Wood at 800.791.5952 Ext.102
or see www.successinchallenges.org