The Community Foundation is proud to work with a variety of stakeholders to creatively and collaboratively advance high priority initiatives in our region, such as the current development of a citywide system of out-of-school time programs for Richmond City students. In partnership with several individual donors, the Community Foundation recently funded a new Out-of-School Time Systems Coordinator to work with foundations, program providers and the schools to facilitate their efforts to better serve children and families who otherwise may not have an opportunity to participate in quality afterschool and summer programming.
We are pleased to introduce you to Shanelle Ebanks, who stepped into the Out-of-School Time Coordinator position in April. We sat down with her to learn more about her passion for youth development and her new role.
What sparked your interest in youth development?
I’ve worked with kids in some capacity my entire life. In college, I had the opportunity to help structure an afterschool program. Even though I was taught about traditional things like curriculum and classroom behavior management strategies, the aspects I wasn’t fully prepared for were the things that affected my kids before they got to school, afterschool or in the community.
For example, regularly struggling to provide my kids with a basic afterschool snack while million-dollar homes were being built across the street from the community center. How do you instill worth in a child when the stark contrasts of the gentrification they are living in tells them otherwise? Or, how do you support a child whose parents are going through a divorce and during fights, dad would take the son and drive around until 2 or 3 a.m.? There was no way he was ready and fully present to learn the next day, and he just slept through afterschool. We’re putting kids in situations where we want them to learn, but there’s so much that affects their ability to do so above and beyond curriculum.
I wanted to learn more about the systems that affect kids and their learning, beyond what happens in the school building. I participated in a fellowship in a low-income private school in Hyderabad, India and had the privilege of witnessing the influence of women’s rights, corruption, politics, religion, culture, and so much more — you see, in the best and worst ways, all these things shape our kids.
Coming back from India, I knew I wanted to further my understanding of systems that affect our families and youth. I received a Masters from N.C. State with dual concentration in Volunteer Management and Administration and Youth Development Leadership, which has allowed me to answer big questions about the work that I do.
You recently organized citywide youth initiatives in Hopewell as the Office on Youth Coordinator. Can you tell us something you took away from that experience?
One of the things I’m really proud of is helping community members see themselves as part of the solution. Often, the viewpoint I got was, “I’m not a teacher, so I can’t help kids,” but everyone has something to offer. It’s just a matter of getting them placed in the right circumstance where they can thrive and where our kids can gain the most benefit from the experience.
Describe your role as the Out-of-School Time Systems Coordinator.
There are a number of key partners throughout the city who have identified out-of-school time programs as a great opportunity for growth — not only for our youth and our families, but for the city as a whole. My role is to bring together those partners and cultivate relationships between them, and to help design a system that supports all stakeholders in the process. I’m working to have our funders, out-of-school time programmers, the schools, our youth, and their families all see themselves in the system and have their needs met. Through this process, we can help prepare our youth, not only for the transitions of school years but also to the ultimate goal of being successful, contributing members of society.
Why invest in out-of-school time?
Everyone thinks about education as during the school day, but there’s so much of who you are as a person that happens outside of those hours. We have a chance to help kids be who they are, find their voice and connect with their purpose and their passion. Every person has value and can contribute something, so how can we get them connected to the thing that gives them the most joy and that allows them to contribute in the best way possible?
We also have the opportunity to reinforce what happens during the school day, and we know statistically that out-of-school time programs can improve school attendance and grades, and they have a great impact on behavior, confidence and self-esteem, among other outcomes.
As we look at the landscape and are honest about changing family structures, we absolutely need more support for our kids. Regardless of one’s family dynamics, it takes a village to raise a child. Who’s to say that you can’t have more people in your village? The more positive influences, experience and exposure that our kids get, the more well-rounded, confident and capable they become.