‘It is not the same’: Youth organizations still unable to meet in Wichita school classrooms

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – While many students are returning to the classroom, a lot of after school groups are still not able to meet at the schools.

Whether it is teaching kids to read, or teaching high schoolers life skills, youth organizations in Wichita will still have to wait until fall to give their students that one on one attention both the mentor and student have been craving.

Students like East High School senior Tomha Lai and sophomore Michelle Velez.

“It makes it really hard,” said Lai. “Even though I can not see them in person, I can still see them through Zoom and everything and talk to them and catch up.”

“I want more interaction with sisterhood,” adds Velez.

The last time these two students got to regularly do that was in early 2020.

“It was a long time now. I do not remember really,” Lai said.

“You are constantly kind of in this depressing mood because I can not talk to my friends I mean, yeah, we are going to on the phone, but it is not going to be the same,” said Velez.

David and Lynn Gilkey with Rise Up For Youth have made Zoom a possibility for their 300 plus students, but they say in the classrooms is where education and life truly meet.

“It is not the same,” said David Gilkey. “It is definitely not the same when you can not meet with them one on one and face to face and build that relationship and all the other students that have been in the program had a chance to experience.”

At United Way, the Read to Succeed program has been put on the shelf leaving more than 400 elementary students waiting to turn the page on their reading skills.

“There is going to be a number of kids that are going to go into fourth grade who did not get a lot of that attention that they really needed,” said volunteer Gerri Ford.

Other organizations like the Pando Initiative is helping more than 1,400 students throughout the area this school year. They are ready to meet in person regularly but they understand the times we are in.

“I mean we are gradually bringing students back in the building so we need to make sure we safely do that first and then address bringing outside help into the building,” said Kenya McConico. Program Director.

USD 259 says they will likely not be allowed outside organizations inside for the remainder of the semester.

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