Hoops 4 L.Y.F.E. switches gears amid pandemic

Hoops 4 L.Y.F.E. switches gears amid pandemic
December 31
10:00 2020

Nearly everyone has had to make concessions and adjustments due to the pandemic. Brittany Ward, founder and executive director of Hoops 4 L.Y.F.E. (H4L), has had to change her after-school program into a virtual mentoring program due to COVID-19. Her plans are to expand to assist more children.

Since the month of March, Ward says her organization had to transition their program to accommodate the kids.  She says that was the turning point for H4L and that allowed them to become a remote site where children can attend their virtual classes, along with receiving educational assistance.  

“In March we launched our virtual learning program, which allows youth to have assistance with turning in assignments in a safe space,” said Ward. “We have Internet access, we have laptops available, and healthy meals with breakfast, lunch and snack.

“We have tutors that will sit with kids throughout the school day to assist with classroom assignments.”

H4L’s original space did not allow for proper social distancing, so Ward had to look for an appropriate space to allow for her new venture. She connected with Christ Beloved Community Church as the new location for her program.

Ward says the switch from a traditional after-school program to a virtual learning program was “a switch on the fly.”

“We are still learning daily of different ways of logging in and dealing with technology and being tech savvy,” she said. “We went through a period where Zoom was getting hacked and other technology fails, so that aspect was kind of tedious, but as long as you have tech savvy people to maneuver through it, it’s cool.”

Along with the educational components of the program, Ward saw fit to educate the kids in the program about healthy eating habits that could assist with preventing possible COVID-19 infection. She says they have introduced the kids to items such as flaxseed oil, alkaline water, elderberry and sea moss.

The COVID-19 restrictions have also limited the number of kids in the program. Ward normally has 25 to 30 kids in her program, but is only allowed 10 with the space she currently has at the church.

“We are servicing less kids, but it’s more work,” she continued. “The hours have changed, and we went from two and a half hours in the afternoon, to holding it from 8:30 to 2:30. That significant change is the difference in the program.”

Ward says she has noticed the difficulty the kids in her program have had from transitioning to virtual learning from in person. She said the kids were used to the constant social interaction with their peers, so without that the kids are having trouble with social withdrawal.

For Ward, she is happy that she can service the ten kids in her program. She says there was a waiting list of 40 other kids that she couldn’t accommodate due to the limited space.  

“Not being able to provide services to the other kids is really playing a major part on us wanting to expand the program in another space to service more kids and families in our community,” Ward said. “I am proud, but we can do better by adding a second and third location to assist more kids.”

Ward said she appreciates the teachers that have bent over backwards to assist the kids in her program. Sometimes the schedules for her program do not always align with the respective school’s schedule, so she wanted to thank the teachers for making accommodations for her kids.

The volunteers have played a pivotal role in the program, said Ward. She has brought in licensed teachers during the summer months, along with professionals to teach classes in sewing and cooking.

Ward has spoken to the parents in the program about maintaining it through the remainder of the year. She says even when in-person learning is available, she will keep her program open as an option for parents.

“We like to get feedback and see if the parents feel it is ideal for their kids to continue to remain remote,” she said. “Our parents have already spoken about their satisfaction with our virtual learning program and I believe this is a new program that is here to stay.”

H4L adheres to strict COVID-19 prevention protocols. Each child has their own table to work from and all parties maintain proper social distance guidelines as well. Ward stated she does not accept kids who are in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System, because of the possible exposure they may have had. The program has not had any positive COVID-19 cases since they began in March.

“I really believe that this is a model program and we should have a lot more of them,” Ward said about her program.  

Ward wanted to thank Christ Beloved, Greater Faith Deliverance, and Camel City CrossFit for their support, along with the Winston-Salem Foundation and The Black Philanthropy Initiative for their contributions as well. She also wanted to thank the owners of Bib’s for their food donations to the program.

Ward says she is always looking for volunteers to assist the kids in the program. For more information about Hoops 4 L.Y.F.E.’s virtual program, please connect with them on all social media platforms.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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