When San Francisco went into shelter in place last March, SF Rec & Park had to hit the pause button on all of its out-of-schooltime programs, including the Tennis & Learning Center (TLC). This did not prevent TLC staff from continuing to offer their love and support to the elementary school children and families they serve at four Rec Centers in some of the city’s most underserved neighborhoods.
“We’ve stayed in touch and have put care packages together for the families because we want to show them that we are here for them no matter what,” says Channing Hale, TLC Program Coordinator. “We want to keep that connection with the TLC families even when we are not seeing them every day.”
When school started up again in August, TLC temporarily shifted to a scaled-down version of the program, as part of San Francisco’s Community Learning Hubs Initiative. Spearheaded by the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) and Rec & Park, in partnership with community-based agencies, community hubs are open to students utilizing SFUSD’s Distance Learning Curriculum and prioritize children and youth with high levels of need.
The TLC Hub is located at Palega Rec Center in the Portola neighborhood and provides support to 32 students in grades K-7 who are organized into three pods based on grade level. Monday through Friday, from 8:30am to 5:30pm, staff provide support to students during their Zoom classes and provide homework help and tutoring. Students receive breakfast, snack and lunch and have access to the playground and recreation facilities to get outside and play.
Hale and her staff make sure that the kids in the Hub are provided with everything they need to learn, including computers and masks. And, as they do in the regular TLC program, they stay in close contact with the students’ teachers. “We’ve met with the teacher of every student in the hub to make sure they are on track,” says Hale.
As important as providing academic support and a safe place for kids to do their schoolwork, is the social and emotional support that TLC staff can provide.“Restoring their mental health is the most important thing,” says Jamila Perlas, TLC Student Services Manager.
“One of the kids at the hub said that this has been the best experience she’s had with school because there are staff here who care so much.” Perlas will lead the new middle school TLC program, which is slated to launch at Golden Gate Park after the tennis center reopens in 2021.
She says that several students who have “graduated” from the TLC elementary school program are excited to continue as middle schoolers at Golden Gate Park.
During this time of uncertainty, one thing is clear: the TLC staff remains passionate and dedicated to providing opportunities for San Francisco kids to succeed on the court and off.