Iowa City non-profits develop neighborhood ‘NESTS’ to support families navigating online learning

Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 7:56 PM CDT
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A group of nonprofits have come together to help address the gaps in the Iowa City Community School Districts' Return to Learn Plan.  They’ve created spaces around the City called NESTS or Nurturing Every Student Together Safely.  The centers provide resources and a safe space for vulnerable youth to complete online school work.

“As a concerned community member, I was very worried about how at-risk children were going to be able to do online learning. How does a kindergartner log on to online learning if their parent has to work,” Missie Forbes, with 4Cs of Johnson County said.

4C’s of Johnson County, an advocacy group for affordable childcare, is just one organization that’s helping address those questions.

Understanding how to start a new school year, all online can be daunting. Especially with limited access to internet, no childcare during the school day and language barriers.

With other groups, they came up with neighborhood learning NESTS to support families as they navigate a new way of learning.

“The goal was to kind of Create micro hubs in neighborhoods to address the specific needs of students in those neighborhoods,” Forbes said.

Just off of Highway 6 in Iowa City, Open Heartland runs a NESTS for mainly Hispanic families in mobile home communities.

“English language learners have an additional struggle. We found last week that the elementary platform is pretty hard to navigate, even if you have a good grasp on technology,” Forbes said.

This center supports not only students, but parents by providing internet access and volunteers to help understand the learning platforms.

“They said they were just at home, not doing anything because they didn’t know what to do,” Joshua Hurtado said. Hurtado is an 11th grader at Iowa City West. In his off time, he volunteers at the NESTS.

“I just help in any way I can. We have kids that don’t have access to internet or don’t have a safe space to do it, so this is a safe place,” he said.

The Iowa City Parks and Recreation Department is also partnering with NESTS to provide an additional neighborhood location, helping meet a growing need.

“It’s becoming clear that we are probably going to have to extend this out to the end of the school year.” Forbes said.

You can learn how to support 4Cs of Johnson County and the NESTS program by visiting here.

Copyright 2020 KCRG. All rights reserved.

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