Photo courtesy of Brandon Block
This year, students have the opportunity to participate in in-person community partnerships, where ASL students work with others in the wider London community. A few of the programs students are working with include the Adventure Play Hub, Doorstep Homeless Families Project, Rugby Portobello Trust and Shine.
In the 2020-21 school year, the offerings for community partnerships were limited due to COVID-19 restrictions; only online or outdoor partnerships took place. According to Director of Community Action Brandon Block, changes in government guidelines have allowed in-person partnerships to fully restart this year.
“[Last year], it wasn’t until spring that we were able to start working together, and then we thought it was best to stick to only outdoor partnerships,” he said. “The organizations have opened up and our partners are much more prepared to welcome us this year.”
Though most partnerships are now taking place in person, Rugby Portobello, an organization where ASL students assist primary school students with homework, is offering a hybrid program. This entails an in-person program on Mondays and Wednesdays as well as virtual classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Block said the online program was created during the pandemic when it was not possible to tutor in person. He said remote tutoring was enjoyable for many ASL students, but it is uncertain how many primary school students will be interested going forward.
“The only thing we don’t know is whether young people will want to be online if they have the option of being face-to-face,” he said. “There’s just a question of what the demand is going to look like.”
Gabi Dawson (’24) is participating in the Rugby Portobello and Shine community partnerships this year.
Dawson said she is taking part in Rugby Portobello to help those in the community with their homework. As for Shine, a partnership where local students are mentored on ASL campus, she said it is also a great way to benefit students from other schools, especially considering ASL’s resources.
“It’s a good way for ASL to help out in the community because we are all privileged to have these different resources and facilities for us to be able to explore our interests,” she said. “A lot of schools don’t have those kinds of facilities.”
Since Shine was online last year, Dawson said a key aspect she missed out on was being able to watch kids learning about their interests in person.
“Being a part of that is something I really enjoy and online last year, it was really hard,” she said. “You don’t really get to know the people on a personal level, and you lose that connection. I think also, without being on campus, it was hard for the kids to get into a rhythm of what they wanted to explore.”
Meanwhile, Emry Porter (’25) is participating in Adventure Play Hub on Mondays, where ASL students have the opportunity to play with students from primary schools in the afternoon. Porter said she learned about the partnership from her older sister, who is also participating.
“[My sister] did adventure playground and she absolutely loved it,” Porter said. “I want to see what she did that was so much fun for her and what she loved about it.”
Overall, both Dawson and Porter said in-person community partnerships lead to improved social interaction with the kids; Porter said being in person limits surrounding distractions and is more engaging.
“It’s hard to stay engaged through a computer screen when there’s so much other stuff going around that’s distracting. When you’re in person, you actually get to see people and to interact socially, and that makes a huge difference,” she said.
According to Block, mask-wearing will be required of ASL students during transport. At most of the sites, mask wearing will be optional, and hand-washing will be encouraged.
Dawson said she is not overly concerned about COVID-19 because she confides in the school’s guidelines and is aware that some High School students have been vaccinated.
“The school takes into consideration COVID-19 guidelines and, if the partnership wasn’t safe, they wouldn’t offer it,” she said.