YMCA expands youth programs to help with virtual learning

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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – The YMCA is known for its wellness and youth programs, but the pandemic prompted officials to create a safe space for learning.

During the summer, many parents who are members at the YMCA were worried about how they were going to manage the academic school year. Shortly after summer camp ended, youth director Whitney Gilbert started the “Y” Learning Academy.

“We realized there was going to be a need,” Gilbert said. “We had families asking if we were going to be doing something and so we dove in and did everything we could to figure out how to support all of the families in our community that really needed a place for their kid to go.”

The YMCA facility wasn’t large enough to safely care for kids amid the pandemic, so members of First Presbyterian Church in Myrtle Beach allowed counselors to use their former building.

The academy averages nearly 90 kids throughout the week. Students are spread out between six to seven classrooms for safe learning. Temperature checks are also documented before entering and masks are required for both counselors and students.

Counselors are helping students navigate online programs such as Seesaw, Google Classroom, and Zoom. Students there are grouped by grade and instruction model (i.e., limited face-to-face instruction or fully distant learning).

Bus transportation and hot meals from Community Kitchen are provided daily. Gilbert told News13 it’s been challenging learning each school’s lesson plans and schedules. However, parents are doing their part in making sure counselors are better prepared.

“[Parents] have a sheet that they fill out with all the information and then they send it with their kids so the counselors have something to go off of as they are helping the students,” Gilbert explained.

Gilbert said kids from all across Horry County are welcome to register if room is available. For now, the academy has a limit of 90 students to align with CDC guidelines.

“Safety is the most important part of this – it’s the first thing,” Gilbert said. “So, it’s always going to come first and we have to limit our numbers to be able to keep all of our kids here safe.”

The number of students registered may very each day. Gilbert encourages parents to check online for registration availability and more details.

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