Forging new cooperative relationships and fostering creative problem solving are central to City Club’s mission. The BEST After School Program is one of Eugene’s premier examples of meeting challenges by weaving together resources from our rich array of community institutions. When the coronavirus closed schools, those institutions pivoted creatively to continue their cooperative work. They helped schools achieve their core mission—academic excellence—while sustaining each institution’s individual mission.
BEST has operated for 19 years as a unique partnership among Eugene’s schools, non-profits, and civic agencies to provide evidence-based academic interventions and enrichment activities in the arts, sciences, recreation, and fitness. Years of research on afterschool projects have confirmed that the key ingredients for success are academics, food, and fun. The results are measurable in test scores and in school attendance, as well as visible in students’ happy faces. Students learn science, dance, gardening, music, robotics, cooking, and art—and they even get to see chickens hatch. But how can anyone make these things happen when schools close and isolation is required? We will hear from 5 of the 15 long-standing BEST partners about what they offer under ordinary circumstances and how they adapted their approaches when schools closed.
Molly Lajoie has been Eugene SD 4J’s BEST After School Program Coordinator for 5 years. She grew up in Eugene and has worked in the Eugene, Springfield, and Bethel School Districts. Among the many roles she has played in her 25 years in education are speech and language pathologist and school principal. She also served as the Executive Director of the Eugene Education Foundation. Molly will explain how the BEST program continued to meet the academic and social-emotional learning needs of students in their five schools after schools closed this spring.
Holly Spencer is the Executive Director of the Eugene-Springfield Youth Orchestras—a group that has provided music for City Club special events on several special occasions. A clarinet performance major in college, Holly has 25 years of experience in nonprofit management. She has been associated with ESYO since her own kids were part of the youth orchestras.
Mindy Bell has been the Executive Director of the School Garden Project since 2018. Her background is in business financial management, but she followed her passion for the natural world into nonprofit work. Now she helps schools develop gardens where students grow food to eat and learn standards-based science.
Katy Vizdal leads the Eugene Symphony’s work with the community. She formerly played a similar role in the Lane Arts Council. Her BA is in music history. Normally, the Symphony’s after school activities don’t start until spring, so the coronavirus posed a major challenge. Katy will explain how the symphony met it.
Holly Kriz-Anderson is the Vice President for Operations and Youth Development Director at the Eugene Family YMCA. She is in charge of afterschool programs that serve more than 750 children at 23 schools in 3 school districts during a typical school year. When coronavirus closed schools, Holly transitioned her team to offer free child care to first responders, medical professionals and essential workers in partnership with the city and local school districts. Holly started at the Eugene Family YMCA in 1999.
Ethan Wing manages Youth and Family Recreation Services for the City of Eugene. When schools closed, the demand for different and new City services grew exponentially. Ethan will describe how his team pivoted in response to the needs of the community during Covid-19. For example, some Recreation Staff became the site managers of temporary encampments for the local unhoused community. He earned an MS in recreation, sports, and tourism administration.