Since the start of the school year, the Joan & Alan Bernikow JCC of Staten Island has served hundreds of children and their families as a Learning Bridges provider for the New York City Department of Education (DOE) and New York City Department of Youth & Community Development (DYCD).
Learning Bridges is a free program designed to support children on their remote schooling days. On days when children are scheduled for remote schooling under the city’s blended learning model, students enrolled in Learning Bridges report to their designated site. The JCC operates five of these locations for Staten Island, including sites at its Bernikow and Avis buildings, as well as its three Cornerstone Community Centers.
Each day, JCC Learning Bridges staff members help students log into their remote learning sessions and guide them through the classwork assigned by their teachers, offering academic support to supplement missed classroom time. Students also enjoy recreational and creative activities, such as sports, time outside, and arts and crafts. The pandemic has changed what childhood looks like in many ways, but Learning Bridges gives students back opportunities to be around other children, express themselves, and engage in important social-emotional development.
When offered the opportunity to become a Learning Bridges provider in the fall, the JCC was eager to use its expertise in youth programming to offer a safe and enriching program for children that would also benefit their parents. For many working parents who cannot stay home on remote schooling days, Learning Bridges is an essential childcare service.
“Very early on in the pandemic, we recognized that families were going to struggle long term,” said Orit Lender, CEO of the JCC. “The ability to have their children come to the JCC, where we can provide a safe environment, was something we knew we had an expertise in doing and we wanted to help families navigate this really uncharted timeframe.”
As New York City begins its transition to post-pandemic life, the JCC remains committed to serving the changing needs of Staten Island children and their families. With schools likely to return to full-time in-person learning in the fall, the JCC will once again offer its afterschool program, Explorers. Explorers, which runs at the JCC’s Bernikow building, aims to expand children’s minds with academic support and STEAM activities, nourish their bodies with sports and recreation, and promote mindfulness with social-emotional learning activities.
The JCC will host open houses for Explorers on June 15 and June 23 from 4 to 8 p.m., by appointment only. Families interested in learning more about the program, can sign up for an appointment at www.sijcc.org/explorers.