The education community, from educators to staff to students, continues to navigate remote methods of instruction amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Southwest Key’s Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Programs (JJAEP) have prioritized keeping students actively engaged along with their mental and behavioral health during hybrid learning. These programs operate across five counties in Texas which serve the state’s most at-risk student populations.
Preliminary data from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) in June 2020 indicates that 11% of students attending public and open-enrollment charter schools in the 2019-2020 school year were disengaged during remote instruction. That means over 600,000 students were not actively engaged, or worse, schools had no contact with them. For many of these students, this means a loss in academic learning, valuable stability, and community support.
A Unique Opportunity
Kristina Adcock, a teacher with the Bell County JJAEP, recognized the importance of increasing student engagement by leveraging partnerships in the community. The Bell County JJAEP is located near one of the largest U.S. military installations in the country: Fort Hood.
With Fort Hood so close by, Kristina reached out to their School Liaison Office, whose role is to forge partnerships between military and schools. It allows active duty soldiers the opportunity to volunteer in schools through the Adopt-A-School Initiative.
The Adopt-A-School Initiative was established in 2004 to increase awareness and educate community partners and schools about military culture. Currently, the Fort Hood’s Adopt-A-School program spans across nine local school districts and 116 schools, with over 90 military units in the program. Soldiers from various units facilitate tutoring, coaching and mentoring at their partnered schools, among other activities.
The 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade (3rd SFAB, AS3) 4th Battalion has adopted the Bell County JJAEP for the 2020-2021 school year. Soldiers will begin to mentor students from the surrounding districts at the Bell County JJAEP. The mentors will be on campus for about an hour and a half each week and will work with classroom staff to foster the students’ academic success while highlighting each soldier’s diversity and experience.
The mentorship has already played a key role with re-engaging students, too. Within the last few weeks, Kristina and Program Director Paul Anderson noticed one of their students (who had expressed an interest in boxing) slowly become disengaged. By chance, one of the soldiers mentoring students is an award-winning boxer in the Army.
Paul was excited to tell the student that he would be paired with the soldier upon his return to the classroom—both sharing a common interest to tie them together. The pairing is just one example of how students can learn to build positive relationships and increase their motivation by discussing their interests and commonalities.
Strategic partnerships with community organizations to impact student learning and well-being is critical as we continue to experience educational disruptions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As students across the nation begin returning to classrooms, we have a lot of work to do in nurturing these relationships. But with programs like Fort Hood’s Adopt-A-School, we can lay the foundation for successfully engaging these at-risk youth.
Learn more about how our Juvenile Justice programs have been using remote learning to keep kids motivated this year.