2020 has redefined what success is for many communities. With so much uncertainty in everyone’s daily lives, one thing was certain – the El Paso community needed to come together to ensure children and families had the support they needed. Through integrated planning efforts with the local housing authority and the El Paso Public Libraries, El Paso was able to promote early school success initiatives to address the educational challenges brought on by the pandemic.
Transformational Learning Community (TLC)
Housing Opportunity Management Enterprises (HOME), formerly known as the Housing Authority of the City of El Paso, not only provides safe and affordable housing to low-income residents but also offers supportive services, including youth learning opportunities, through community partnerships.
From March 2020 through September 2021, all face-to-face programming was discontinued due to the pandemic. Since resuming services, youth residents have shared feelings of seclusion and sadness when services and resources were not being provided. They voiced their eagerness and desperation to participate in social activities with fellow residents and within the wider El Paso community. It was clear that something needed to be done in response to the negative impacts of isolation experienced by youth; in collaboration with the Philosophic Systems Institute (PSI), the Transformational Learning Community (TLC) project was created.
The purpose of TLC is to create sustained opportunities for teen residents to co-design projects across cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains. TLC is an active learning exploration of young people’s interests, potential and process of idea generation and research. PSI serves as a bridge in providing core facilitators for programming, inviting artists, engineers, musicians, creative writers, cooks, etc., based on the youth’s chosen area of interest. Each of the continued weekly engagements supported young people’s connections to one another, as well as the development of practical focus areas. Program facilitators ensured a regular onsite presence within the HOME properties and made themselves available for informal interactions outside of the programmed activities. At the end of the program period, youth were given the opportunity to showcase their completed projects. HOME is now permanently embedding this initiative into its future properties, speaking to the positive impact TLC has had on youth residents.
The El Paso Public Library (EPPL)
Due to the pandemic, library services were limited to curbside pick-ups and deliveries, and El Paso schools were closed. Around this time, EPPL was awarded a timely grant of $20,000 and 100 refurbished laptop computers for its Literacy Center. The Literacy Center offers entrepreneurs access to services and technology to help them start or grow their businesses. Through strategic partnerships, including HOME, 100 low-income families who were adversely impacted by the pandemic were identified. These community members each received one of the 100 computers provided by the grant and were offered classes to assist adults with helping their children in attending school online and to support them with finding jobs online or meeting with social service agencies, family members and doctors virtually. EPPL also teamed up with EveryoneOn to facilitate basic digital literacy computer classes.