By Shirley Hawkins
SOUTH LOS ANGELES — With area schools still closed due to the coronavirus, the Crenshaw Family YMCA is trying to fill the gap by providing a virtual learning hub in the YMCA’s auditorium so that local schoolchildren can study and complete their schoolwork.
In an effort to help close the digital divide, the virtual learning hub offers free WiFi, laptops and tutoring services from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“The children can now be in the classroom with their teachers virtually,” said Veda Ramsay-Stamps, executive director of the YMCA. “If their laptop at home is not working, they can get a free one from the Y.”
Asked what she thinks contributes to the achievement gap and the digital divide that has been widely reported to exist for minority children, Ramsay-Stamps said, “I believe that racism, a lack of investment in our school systems that primarily serve African American and Hispanic children and a lack of outside support contribute to the academic achievement gap in underserved communities.
“There’s a need for community-based organizations to step up and give support and tools to Black and Hispanic children,” she added. “A recent study stated that something as basic as providing tutoring and educational support for Black and Hispanic children can help close the achievement gap.”
Ramsay-Stamps added that the staff at the YMCA undergo COVID testing and a rigorous background check before they are allowed to interact with the children.
The YMCA also offers a Grab and Go program where community residents can drive up and receive food supplies twice a week.
Ramsay-Stamps said the waiting list for enrollment in the learning hub continues to grow.
“We are getting constant calls from parents about the YMCA learning hub,” she said, adding that many local parents experience a sense of relief knowing that their children can go to a safe place to do their schoolwork. “The stress on the parents is greatly lifted. We are thinking of creative ways to expand [the operation].”
Students from Baldwin Hills Elementary School, New Heights Charter School and Tom Bradley Elementary School primarily use the learning hub.
“The city of Los Angeles just awarded $5.5 million in grants to 16 branches of the Y across L.A. at the beginning of the year,” Ramsay-Stamps said. “Those funds allow us to provide more staffing to support our Grab and Go program and the learning hub.”
Ramsay-Stamps said that other companies have stepped forward to provide equipment to the Crenshaw Family YMCA.
“Sales Force, Compudot and NBA player Russell Westbrook, who operates the Russell Westbrook Foundation, have all provided free laptops, WiFi and tutors,” Ramsay-Stamps said.
Due to the demand, the YMCA plans to run the program all summer.
Ramsay-Stamps said it has been gratifying to help underserved children and communities.
“It is vitally important that the students have the tools they need to continue their education,” she said. “It’s wonderful that we are doing a small part in changing the educational landscape for Black and brown children.”
The Crenshaw Family YMCA is located at 3820 Santa Rosalia Drive. It can be reached by phone at (323) 292-9195.
Shirley Hawkins is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.