My name is Adria de Stefano, and I am one of the Program Coordinators for Sharks Until Dark, the expanded learning program at Sherman Elementary School, with Bay Area Community Resources. In my role I help design and implement expanded learning programs for our school community, including the Hub at Golden Gate Valley Branch Library, Outdoor Education, and virtual learning opportunities. I help manage our team of 16 wonderful after school teachers, and meaningfully partner with our Sherman school administration on a day to day basis.
The partnership with the SF Public Library has been incredible! The team working at the Golden Gate Valley Branch has been so caring, accommodating and wonderful to partner with. They provide the students with lovely age-appropriate reading selections, and have even provided book bags for them to take home and keep! The number one key to keeping this partnership strong and successful has been open communication with our Library partners. It’s a beautiful, historic 100 year old library that we are so grateful to be able to use!
A Day at the Hub
Day to day life at our Community Hub starts out with a rolling drop off from 8:30–8:50am. As we take temperatures and sign the students into program outside of the library, they chat with each other and engage in social distanced activities, like hopscotch, racing, and more. At 8:50am the students all go inside to their seats where they know the drill! They set up their chromebooks, get signed on, pop up their privacy dividers, plug headphones in and are ready for the day! After their first zoom sessions end, they typically have a breakfast snack, and take a 10 minute brain break before starting on their seesaw/google classroom assignments! The schedule typically goes like this throughout the morning: zooms, break activities (friendship bracelets, reading, arts and crafts) and assignments!
After lunch, our younger friends are all done with their calls, and have more time to finish up assignments and engage in social emotional learning activities. At 2pm, the half-day students are picked up from the library, and the full day students then transition to an afternoon of Outdoor Education in the Presidio! Our students walk from the library to the Presidio every day, and there they engage in meaningful outdoor education and nature learning.
Something that stands out to me is seeing the joy the students have when coming to program every day. In the beginning, many students struggled with the transition to in-person learning at the hub. They missed their parents, and would have a tough time at drop off daily. But now that they have made so many meaningful connections at the Hub, there are no more tears and just so much excitement to be here! Also, watching the students who struggled the most with their academics, who arrived at the Hub with hundreds of uncompleted assignments, take huge steps in their learning! These friends have taken charge of their learning with the support of our team. Seeing their excitement to learn always makes me pause and smile.
Our Hub provides a sense of home, family, connection and belonging by creating a strong community for our participants. Our hub community members, staff and students all count on each other. Our hub provides a space for them to connect, feel safe, seen and heard.
The students in our Hub have experienced so much growth with their social emotional learning skills, peer interactions and routines. I am impressed every day with how resilient and adaptable they are. Even our youngest students have the distance learning routines down! Some highlights of their experience is definitely being able to spend time with their new friends and classmates in person and to be able to have consistent support with their academics. For their out of school time activities, they love to put their creative juices to work in creating fun art projects, including making themselves into Hub Heroes! I believe some of the challenges that have presented themselves are with our youngest students (kindergarten) who have not yet been in a classroom. They’ve at times struggled with regular classroom protocols that they would typically have at this point in the school year. However, they have impressed us all so much with their fast learning!
What our Hub, students and families need to thrive is continued funding, access to resources, information and training, and just a continuation of all the hard work DCYF has already been doing!
Despite our school’s enrollment dropping lower due to families leaving the city, I still strongly believe San Francisco is a great place to grow up. There are definitely many challenges that come with growing up in a city like SF, but these children experience so much more diversity, culture and awareness that you just cannot find anywhere else! They are such resilient and wonderful little people.
As we commemorate a year since the first Stay at Home Order, I would just like to express how impressed I am with all the youth during this time. This past year the children of our communities, and across the world, have experienced so many challenges. And they are constantly surprising me with their strength and resiliency to keep moving forward. To adapt and grow, despite the constant changes. I think we could all learn so much from our youth.
Adria, as we struggle and grind through the pandemic, what song motivates you to continue to serve our communities?
This is a tough one! I’d have to say “We Are the Champions” by Queen- because really, aren’t all who are doing this work really such champions?! Our team of incredible and hard working staff are truly the greatest champions of all, putting themselves at risk, serving our families and community during the toughest of times.
To learn more about DCYF’s Community Hub Initiative, visit dcyf.org/care