At Quest Charter Academy, relationship-building and community engagement haven’t slowed down because of COVID-19. Though gatherings look a little different these days, the school is using innovative tactics to stay in touch, engage with families, and connect with their community.
“Community engagement is just part of what Quest Charter Academy is about,” said Dr. Taunya Jenkins, Executive Director at Quest Charter Academy in Peoria, Ill. “We want the students to gain an understanding of citizenship. We try to really push family and community engagement.”
Students and their families participated in a 5K walk/run-a-thon in early October that was combined with an academic scavenger hunt. By scheduling participants at different times throughout the day and staying outdoors, everyone was able to socially distance themselves and adhere to local health guidelines. Students helped set up the tent, check in registrants, and see the work that goes on in order to learn how to give back. Dr. Jenkins said she likes to combine academics and fun activities to ensure students learn while embracing their “human spirit” as well.
Later that evening, the school live-streamed a presentation with author Jim Stovall about his book, The Ultimate Gift, which Quest Charter Academy students read. Students were able to ask Stovall questions afterward.
Another event that Quest Charter Academy has reimagined during COVID-19 is family movie night. The school hosted a movie night virtually this year, allowing families to drive by the school to pick up popcorn and soda and return home to stream the same movie together.
Dr. Jenkins said she likes to look at community engagement from several different angles.
“How does the classroom connect to the community?” she said. “How does the community connect to wellness? How do we update things we’ve done in the past? What new things do we try? We like to give people multiple ways to participate.”
COVID-19 has shifted Quest Charter’s “how” to community engagement, but not their “why.”
“Our approach changed because it forced us to hone in on what’s possible,” Dr. Jenkins said. “Now, we’re looking at a challenge and finding a solution that benefits families. People want to belong to something like this.”
By prioritizing relationships and engagement, the school has seen a positive impact on students’ social emotional health. Dr. Jenkins credits it to the philosophy, If I feel better, I can do better. She believes if we want students to perform academically, we must not lose sight of keeping students connected to their community.
Quest Charter Academy has risen to the occasion and found ways to make the most of a tough situation.
“If you build fun, the kids will come,” Dr. Jenkins said.