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A New Program Structure: How CYP Operates During the Pandemic

Callie Morgan

Feb. 20, 2022

EVANSTON -- After the Covid-19 pandemic forced Chicago Public Schools to halt in-person operations in March 2020, Chicago Youth Programs (CYP), this year’s primary beneficiary, followed suit. Daily tutoring and mentoring services, operating out of locations on the South, North and West sides of Chicago, shifted to a completely virtual landscape.

CYP had to change the structure of their programming to keep kids involved, said Melody Brooks, CYP’s External Engagement & Events Manager. Rather than assigning participants a schedule for the week, the organization began giving them the option to sign up for classes based on their individual interests, she said. Program leaders found that this structure was more engaging for the students, who were exhausted from sitting in virtual classrooms all day. CYP also distributed Chromebooks to its participants, ensuring that every student could stay involved with programming despite restrictions on in-person gatherings.

While their efforts were valiant, CYP’s weekly participation numbers have dropped from 300-400 kids to around 200 since the pandemic began. CYP participants struggled with the new virtual format, said Brooks. While some just aren’t good virtual learners and require in-person interaction to succeed, others lack a “safe space” without going to school and CYP every day, she said.

The organization has also seen benefits to the programming they’re providing online, however.

“It gives them light,” Brooks said. “The kids that did participate, they were excited and happy. It gives them something fun to do, and it draws them to what is calling them.”

Cooking, photography, and speech were among the most popular of CYP’s new online course offerings.

As the post-pandemic future approaches, Brooks and her team are working to bring CYP back to its fully functioning, in-person operations. The organization’s leadership will be discussing next steps in the coming weeks.

CYP family, November '21

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