Rye’s Youth-Serving Organizations Learn to Pivot During Pandemic

A survey conducted by the Growing the Positive steering committee shows that many of Rye’s youth-serving organizations changed course quickly and effectively last spring, offering a wide range of programming to children, teens and their families throughout the pandemic.

Twelve organizations responded to the survey, describing activities and programs they conducted between March 2020 and March 2021. They also outlined their plans through August 30, 2021; activities they would conduct if they had the right partner; and gaps in services they’ve observed.

The data showed that several organizations and agencies are collaborating with each other on projects. For example, the Rye Free Reading Room is partnering with the Rye Youth Council and pRYEde Community Group on a three-part Activist Academy for teens. Last fall, the Rye YMCA and Rye Recreation teamed up for Rec Lunch and Recess, which brought students from Midland, Milton and Osborn Elementary Schools to Rye Rec for lunchtime outdoor sports and games. As a coalition representing 12 sectors, RyeACT collaborated with numerous organizations on several activities, and worked closely with its own teen leaders on others. And some organizations, like the Rye Arts Center and Osborn School partnered with the Chamber of Commerce and local businesses, including Arcade Books and Longford’s.

While many of the programs and activities have been virtual, several of the respondents have found ways to hold outdoor, in-person gatherings safely. Boy Scouts Troop 2 completed Eagle Scout projects with Friends of the Rye Nature Center and Community Synagogue, among others. The Rye Historical Society held outdoor classes at Knapp House for grades 2-5.  And Friends of the Rye Nature Center quickly expanded its outdoor education capabilities, enabling the organization to resume in-person summer camp in June 2020 and run programs for pre-school through 8th grade during the academic year.

As pandemic restrictions ease, Rye’s youth-serving organizations are planning a mix of virtual, hybrid and in-person activities for the spring and summer of 2021. And while only a few organizations identified gaps, child care, mental health services and programs for children with special needs were mentioned as areas that need strengthening. Noting that she has fielded many calls from parents who are seeing anxiety and depression in their children, social worker Kim O’Connor listed a virtual mindfulness workshop for high school students that she plans to run.

“The past year has been so tough for kids and their families,” observed Rye Y Executive Director Gregg Howells. “But we’re fortunate to have such dedicated, creative and hard-working advocates for children in Rye. Our community has really rallied around our youth to support them, and their families, during this challenging time.”

Growing the Positive was formed to foster coordination and collaboration among Rye’s youth-serving organizations and agencies. The steering committee is composed of representatives from the Rye City School District, RyeACT, the Rye Youth Council and Rye YMCA. For a summary of the survey results, contact Denise Woodin at denisewoodin@ryeymca.org.