2019 - 2020 Year In Review
A Look Back
The 2019-2020 program year for WMCAT was marked by perseverance and success for our students, exhaustion and anxiety as we all navigated the sudden onset of the pandemic, and reflection on the rewarding and challenging work of community prosperity. Through it all, I was continually inspired by the creativity and tenacity of WMCAT’s students, the innovation of our partners in social justice, and the support of our donors and friends. When the pressure of seeking justice knocks you off balance, you lean into the work to recalibrate. That is what WMCAT accomplished this past year — leaning into our mission of equitable access to opportunity. I am honored to share with you this WMCAT year in review for 2020. Thank you for all you do to sustain the work.
Special COVID-19 Response
WMCAT was and is committed to providing a safe and inclusive space for young people and adults to pursue opportunity. That commitment meant we were and we still are vigilant about the safety of our students, staff and community. Following the extended “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order given by Governor Whitmer for the State of Michigan in response to COVID-19, WMCAT suspended all on-site programming and remained closed until June 2020.
During that time, WMCAT staff contributed ideas, resource options, and worked with their connections from around the community to help build this resource guide for our students and their families. It provided opportunities and organization for families during a chaotic time as they focused on staying healthy.
Teen Arts + Tech staff continued to connect with students remotely through a variety of approaches when Michigan was shut down due to COVID-19. Several studios completed collaborative projects on which work had begun pre-COVID, while others shifted to less-studio-specific activities using resources easily accessible in students’ homes
No matter the content or platform used for connection, we centered most of their efforts on supporting teens’ social-emotional needs. In conversations with parents, many expressed that the impact of quarantine on their teens was especially difficult. We recognized early on that many students simply needed a space to connect with peers to process the sudden changes and uncertainty of the global health crisis.
Workforce Development prioritized continued access to learning, exam preparation, health and well-being, and maintaining momentum in the career journey.
We quickly transitioned to remote learning, extended emotional and financial support to students and families, curated experiential learning, and enhanced social capital by connecting students with professionals in the field (including alumni).
- Provided immediate financial support to adult students and families (mortgage/rent, car repair, essential home supplies).
- Leveraged additional financial support through the Kent County Relief Fund for 5 students.
- Encouraged students to prioritize their mental and emotional health. Seven (7) students met with our Arbor Circle therapist during the pandemic.
- Held a “Drive-thru Graduation” so families and staff could celebrate students safely.
WMCAT along with the program participants were disappointed that we were not able to complete the program in person, but the program continued virtually with classes and online meetings with industry professionals, in addition to 1-on-1 phone calls between instructor and students. We were able to connect students to additional financial support through the WMCAT Fund and Kent County Relief Fund.
We were able to quickly adapt our content in order to facilitate online/ virtual sessions. By utilizing Zoom and transferring our typical sticky-note ideation process to Mural, an effective online whiteboard platform, we maintained the quality of work and connection to clients.
Ambrose at WMCAT was closed according to Michigan’s executive orders. Once possible, the print shop opened with reduced capacity–production capabilities. We were available to our clients through email, phone, and video calls the whole time. We launched a pilot project, Bound As One during the spring and were able to raise $3,884.41 for local businesses.
Bound as One — supporting small businesses
Social capital is important to Juan Garcia, manager of Ambrose at WMCAT. As the pandemic forced the closing of businesses in his community, Juan wanted to help his neighbors. This led to Bound As One, a project that encouraged patrons of local businesses to purchase our custom-designed and hand-screen-printed t-shirts and tote bags to support their favorite neighborhood spots. With 50 percent of the proceeds of each purchase going to the featured local business, Bound as One created an immediate impact.
Cyber Hub at WMCAT was able to quickly provide a free resource, “Teach Yourself InfoSec” that connected individuals with opportunities to either begin their career pathway or learn more about the technology industry itself. Summer camps for middle school and high school students went virtual and we were able to host community events through Zoom to keep the cyber community connected.