The Department of Education grant will be divided among six organizations. (Dave Cummings | New Hampshire Bulletin)
When Manchester schools went remote for the 2020 school year, it wasn’t just school administrators who had to cobble together new learning programs. The team at BRING IT had to reinvent the wheel, too.
For 15 years, the organization has run after-school programs in the city targeted toward New Americans, refugees, and those learning English, providing a space where kids could play basketball, catch up on homework with tutors, and have dinner. The name is an acronym: Bringing Refugees, Immigrants, and Neighbors Gently Into Tomorrow.
As the school district transitioned to remote learning last year, teachers at BRING IT did their best to move with them. Homework sessions moved online; basketball games became home fitness tutoring sessions over Instagram; and the organization was one of many helping families access free meals from the school districts.
“We were basically creating new programming, because our already existing programming that was in person obviously could not happen,” said Doug Leclerc, the organization’s program director. “So we put together an outreach program to support families at home who are struggling immensely with the remote learning and all the difficulties that came with that.”
Now, those pandemic-era efforts are getting a boost. BRING IT is one of six organizations receiving a piece of an $800,000 New Hampshire Department of Education grant to boost learning loss programs for English language learners, the department announced Friday.
The money, provided through federal funds, will also go to support similar efforts by the American Center and Global Platform for Peace Advocacy, Building Community in New Hampshire, Saint Anselm College’s Meelia Center for Community Engagement, United Way of Greater Nashua, and The Youth Council, the department said.
“Despite the incredible efforts of families, EL educators, and school leaders, many English learners were disproportionately impacted by educational disruptions,” Commissioner Frank Edelblut wrote in a statement. “We are excited to partner with these community organizations to provide English learners and students with limited means the academic support they need outside of the classroom and beyond the school day.”
BRING IT will receive around $140,000 over two years, Leclerc said. That money will help it maintain its virtual tutoring programs and pay for transportation to its centers, now that the center is back to in-person programming.
“For us, the grant is huge because it’s allowing us to continue to run our in-person program that we’ve been doing for the longest time, but now be able to hire additional staff to make the program better,” Leclerc said.
BRING IT has bilingual instructors, but the program also benefits from its own students; participants who are now in high school but started when they were younger often return the favor and help the newcomers with translation, Leclerc said. And the organization’s design makes it well positioned to help some of New Hampshire’s 100 to 200 Afghan refugees in the coming months, he added.
“If they do come, it makes it even more important for programs like ours and the other programs involved in this grant to exist,” Leclerc said.
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