By Maridel Perdomo
During this unpredictable time, I am very proud of my staff. The WBExL team has been creating amazing online content, including videos, as a way to stay in touch with our students. However, to me, as the WBExL director, there is no technology or distancing program that can substitute for the warmth and daily feedback we get from our students.
Even though as a society and as a program we need to learn to live with the physical distance, to me, just being able to observe a student’s smile is extremely rewarding and is what makes our hard work worth it. When a WBExL student wants to come [to my work space] to say hi, maybe to have a snack or even to complain to me about something, those interactions cannot be replaced by any technology or virtual platform.
At WBExL we constantly provide opportunities for our students to develop their social and emotional skills. We provide a safe, inviting and fun place where kids are not only free to express themselves but are encouraged and supported to do just that. That is difficult to replicate if we are not physically together. I am eagerly looking forward to the day we can safely come back together.
But, for now, I hope our students are enjoying the wonderful work the WBExL staff is doing to stay in touch. I miss each one of our students and their families and I really hope each one is staying safe, healthy and positive.
A Takeaway for the Future
One take away from all of this, however, is that we might want to continue to create videos and other online learning material even when we again are able to be in the our regular space. They are another way for us to connect with students and families. We might even involve the students in creating them!
As with all Schools for Children programs and schools, the health and safety of WBExL students, parents and staff are of the utmost importance. Therefore, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, our program will reopen on May 4, 2020.
As its name implies, Winn Brook Extended Learning expands the knowledge that its students acquire during the school day. During this time of physical distancing, the program is encouraging families to use internet resources to practice skills that the students began to develop in WBExL clubs and activities.
For example, there are free language-learning websites and platforms, like Duolingo, that can help children continue to build on skills learned in the Spanish program or Chinese club. Online cooking videos specifically for children are fun for the entire family. Parents can also ask their child to teach the family some of the games that WBExL students have learned, as another way to enjoy their time together.
The health and safety of our students, staff, parents and families are of the utmost importance. As the response to COVID-19 at the national, state and local levels continues to unfold, we will keep you updated on the work our schools and programs are doing to help students continue to develop academically, socially and emotionally during the days ahead.
For ideas on how to talk to your student about COVID-19, visit our sister website: Schools for Children.
Maridel Perdomo is the director of Winn Brook Extended Learning. She came to Winn Brook after successfully leading a large, complex program operated by the Boston YMCA and located at the Gardner Pilot Academy in Allston. Prior to that, she was the director of the Pine Village (bilingual) Preschool in Cambridge.
Maridel also worked for several years in a variety of programs operated by Centro Latino, Inc. in Chelsea. A native of Caracas, Venezuela, she has earned the admiration of children, parents and staff in her prior work environments. This is illustrated in the admiration that one former employee shared in describing Maridel.
According to the coworker, Maridel is an “inspirational leader … super organized … and extremely hard working.” She also has an affinity for bringing the community together to support the development and well-being of the children. In her time at Winn Brook Extended Learning, Maridel has been a creative and innovative program leader. Families, staff and the larger school community rave about her wonderful relationship with children, who feel loved, cared for and listened to.
The (then) Winn Brook After School program was first conceived over 30 years ago to meet the needs of a just a few working Belmont families. Since then, Winn Brook Extended Learning has steadily blossomed into a dynamic and diverse community all our own. We officially increased our capacity from 140 students to 160 students due to demand during the 2018-19 school year. Today, we continue to provide all Belmont families a safe and enriching environment for their children.