By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) – The Boys & Girls Club Metro Denver has nine clubs serving as remote learning centers this month, along with four locations that can offer traditional after school programs. Families rely on the clubs to help their students get through virtual classes while they work, more than 40 students are enrolled at the Cope Club.

(credit: CBS)

“It is more challenging than I expected but I love a challenge,” said Lorena Martinez, 12, a seventh grade student. “Remote learning just really isn’t my thing, I prefer to be at school but Boys & Girls Club is helping a lot.”

The Cope Club located at 808 Inca Street has three different areas that operate as cohorts. Students are socially distanced by six to eight feet, wearing masks and cleaning their own desks. The different cohorts never mix to help avoid the potential spread of COVID-19. Only a few weeks in, these student already notice a difference from trying to study when parents are busy and siblings are distracting.

“There’s people to help you but at home your mom and dad are working,” said Za’marah Shoeboot, 8, a third grade student. “It’s kind of hard to listen because there’s people that are off mute and yelling and people at home with them are loud.”

While it isn’t the same as having a teacher in the same classroom, students appreciate the effort made by Boys & Girls Club staff to help them do their best remotely.

“They push you to do your work, to succeed, they make you sure you’re on task,” said Angel Mendoza, 11, a sixth grade student.

(credit: CBS)

The organization knows the families they’re serving cannot easily handle virtual learning at their homes because they need to be at work. The clubs offer meals for students and programs are still available on some days in the afternoons. Staff want to make sure they’re maintaining a relationship with their neighborhoods when they cannot be together. Usually, the Cope Club would serve 150 students.

“Many of those families cannot afford private after school or daytime care and the Boys & Girls Club is just delighted to be able to do that,” said Patrick Gaines, chief development officer for Boys & Girls Club Metro Denver. “When we have to pivot at a moment like this, it’s really those established foundations and public school systems that say how can we move quickly to reinvent ourselves to adjust to this pandemic.”

The trend of learning pods became popular across the country this summer, parents preparing for a return to school that would require students to stay out of schools. While some had the resources to create small groups for children to learn together and hire an instructor, many did not. Across Colorado, an affordable version of these pods is becoming a practical alternative for families who cannot watch over students during the day. Some have been provided directly by schools, the Boys & Girls Club is now another option.

“We’re really doing a lot more to make sure that we’re not losing any relations and making sure that we’re there for the community,” said Julie Flores, the director of the Cope Club. “This program is just so well needed.”

(credit: CBS)

The organization plans to keep this model through the middle of October, when many school districts in the metro area will reevaluate their current plans for remote learning. Students say they are grateful to keep that connection with the club, which has already been pivotal in their childhood.

“Boys & Girls Club is my family, I’ve created bonds with people that I’ve never created before and I love it,” said Martinez.

Shawn Chitnis

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