• Desmond Williams

Skill Building for Teens During a COVID-Summer


COVID-19 has impacted the world and the United States like nothing we have seen in recent history. The death toll in the United States has reached over 100,000 as of the publication of this document. Millions of Americans are sheltering in place via state mandated stay at home orders. It is reported that some 36 million Americans filed for unemployment since the end of April 2020. Life and commerce as we know it came to a complete stand still. Sports fans lost the NBA and NHL seasons and to date, major league baseball has not started. Countless social celebrations such as Essence Festival and South x South West were canceled outright. Restaurants shuttered, as did air travel, vacations, and leisure outings. Many states are preparing for absentee ballot voting, and many states cancelled Democratic primary voting in late winter and early spring to protect public safety. Religious houses have closed their physical doors, migrating to online worship services and bible studies. Americans have even been forced to mourn the deaths of loved ones via Zoom and Facebook streaming services.

Media coverage has highlighted the creativity and human spirt that has attenuated the sting of quarantining over the last several months. From drive by happy birthdays sing-alongs to school principals delivering yard signs to commemorate graduating seniors.

In Education

On the education front, learning has moved to online platforms. The World Economic Forum estimates that some 1.2 billion children worldwide are out of the classroom

as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic. In America, that number is an estimated at 50.8 million public school students. These children are home following some semblance of makeshift learning as school districts worked feverishly to quilt a tapestry of options to support student learning to combat skill lose. Millions of students were at home either working online or completing work packets or some combination of the two. End of the year testing is out of the picture and some districts are up in the air as to what standardized testing should look like in SY 2020-2021. While initial focus was concentrated on the roll out of digit platforms, energy is now turning to preparation for summer programming (if any) and the roll out of the fall instruction.

Despite the hard work by educators and the elephant juggling by parents, there have been mixed results. Despite the hard work professional educators. There are many thorny issues. Many districts are not sure what to do about grading procedures. An April 8 report by NPR report that some 40% of teens surveyed, responded that they have not completed any online work. This results in tremendous skill lose, leaving district leader with tough decisions to make regarding assessment and grades. One Washington, DC principal who did not want to be named, reported that participation at his school on a weekly basis teeters at approximately 60%. This is higher than the NPR survey, but unnerving, nonetheless.

At the same time, teachers and principals and all learning communities struggled to swiftly implement programming that would

support all swiftly, justly and equally. Conversations regarding how to best support learners was the top priority. Taking stock of emotional well-being, training teachers on best online practices, making sure students were safe on their devices, delivering work packets and closing the digital divide in low-income communities came soon after. Many school leaders struggled to find special provisions to support staff members with smaller children in the home. There was also the concern about how to support homeless communities, not to mention those students and families that depend on school for daily meals. This became a labor of love for many principals and district leaders, without much time to reflect and assess student learning after the migration. As districts move toward preparation for fall, one thing is clear. We have more questions than answers.

The only two mantras to prevail in these uncertain times are (1) be adaptable (2) ensure equity. The CDC offered paltry guidance regarding how schools should look when they reopen. This was not very helpful, as it is clear that schools and public spaces have to be safe, but city leaders and public officials are also charged with restoring confidence in public safety, which in many respects is a larger task.

With many parents left to figure things out on an island, Nylinka has tried to serve as a beacon for families who need support and extra resources. Not only that, with the wealth of information available, Nylinka has positioned itself as a bridge to connect parent to existing resources. As one Charlotte, North Carolina parent lamented,

“There is almost too much information. It’s hard to know where to start.”

We at Nylinka School Solutions authored this summer toolkit to give guidance to parents on how to help children stay engaged during the long summer months. As districts make decisions about summer school and the opening of the fall, one thing is clear: as a nation we are in different places in terms of how our cities, states and individual districts are responding to this heath crisis. Some places will have summer school. Some will not. Some schools will gradually reopen schools with or without summer. Others will open their doors fully. Others will use hybrid models with children attend on alternating days. In any scenario, millions of students across the country will have missed several months of traditional instruction. With summer school being up in the air, and many children being home for the 8-10 weeks of the typical summer, there is a need for skill maintenance. The following guidance is a list of skills that parents can work on with their children, with little to no technology. It is estimated that approximately 9 million children nationwide do not have the necessary equipment to engage in online learning. Some websites are listed as a supplement or complement.

Nylinka School Solutions was very careful in considering vulnerable groups in drafting the toolkit. However, in doing so, the toolkit does provide a list of resources that families with adequate Internet and tech capacity can use to skill build with their children. The following are skills that parents and families can implement in home to help children skill

build during the uncertain summer months. These are not academic skills per se, but the

provide soft and hard skills that serve well rounded human beings well in the changing times.


It is important in stressful times to be mindful of one’s own feelings and emotions. Taking time each day to focus on breathing and relaxing is critical. Daily exercise cannot be over emphasized. Boys and girls of all ages should go for a walk in the community (while still practicing social distance guidelines). It is important to take parents along too. Homes now more than ever are hubs of learning, worship, sleep, play and socialization. This can cause a tremendous stress on the household. Kids should have daily meditation sessions. Stretching and yoga can are excellent outlets as well. Families may choose to do these together or separately depending on family dynamic.

Many schools help students practice social emotional learning, which entails understanding the triggers that cause stress and emotional tensions. Students should be aware of their triggers and have conversations with family members to help them identify triggers. While this is not a substitute for receiving professional helps, it can support with coping. When feeling overwhelmed or distressed beyond normal limits, these techniques are not meant to replace professional assistance.

Check out:


Be the connector in your family. Students should call loved ones they have not spoken with in recent memory. Because many people are still sheltering in place, it is an excellent time to reach out to distant family. Many elderly Americans are feeling isolated because they are at risk and are quarantining to an extreme degree. Setting up conference calls or daily check-ins can be very therapeutic for them. It is also an excellent opportunity to create family trees or other academic based projects that document family history. Try: for free video conferencing. If technology is limited, picking up the phone is still a heart-warming and touching gesture.


No matter what time of year it is writing is king. Encourage your son or daughter to journal daily. They can write about a myriad of topics. This is an excellent way to grow vocabulary, recraft sentence structure and explore topics further. For families that are at a disadvantage financially, children can write on composition journals that are minimal cost. It is important that someone read the journal, especially for younger children. This allows the child to receive feedback on handwriting, sentence structure spelling, grammar etc. Research tells us that the more students write, the more proficient readers they become. Writing freely also takes the sting out of writing on demand in school-based, pressure situation.

For high school students this should morph into research. High school students should research topics and write essays. Learning to craft strong thesis statements with strong

supporting details is essential in high school, college and beyond. With an every-changing world, there are plenty of opinions to be had. Students can write opinion and op-ed pieces, that will aid in skill building and creating voice. Check out: or

Read, and then Read Some More

Even with schools shuttering, reading is still king. Students in elementary should read for an hour per day. Middle schoolers should read for an hour and half. High Schoolers should read for two hours per day. Books are king. Many cities have closed libraries but have begun to use curbside services that will allow patrons to check out books online and pick up in person. It can be difficult to read in a household that is loud. It makes since for parents to institute a D.E.A.R. (drop everything and read) time to ensure the house is silent. Encourage older siblings to discuss their readings with younger siblings. Elementary age children should read to someone. Check out: The website of your local library.


There is no more valuable a skill. The kitchen is the hospital of the home. It is the first line of defense against disease and illness. Children should become nutrition masters. It is recommended that children who are mature enough to use kitchen supplies have a repertoire of foods they can prepare with little help from adults. Teenagers 13-18 should also have a repertoire of foods and meals they can prepare that are balanced and nutritious. If teenagers master one food

per week during the summer months that is 10-12 dishes under their preverbal chef belt.

Check out:

World Language

Become proficient in a language outside of English. If students are studying a foreign language in schools, encourage them to work toward mastery. If they are conversational, move toward fluency. There are many online resources to support groups of all ages. If technology is an issue, have children listen to their favorite movies or tv shows in their foreign language of study.

Check out: www.fluentu.ocm or

Financial Literacy

Research shows that most adults do not believe themselves to be financially literate, yet it is the one subject that teachers wish was covered more in K-12 schooling. Financial literacy is a broad in scope. Personal finance is always critical. Helping young adults and teenagers make better decisions around credit and credit card purchases is important. Many teens and young adults for that matter do not know math behind interest rates and credit cards fees.

Investing is another big bucket that children can delve into. Even if there is no money to invest per se, parents should sit with children and discuss the DOW, NYSE and the Nasdaq. Identify a stock and follow price changes over time. Check out: or

Build Your Voice

Humans are always offering their opinions; teenagers do this without effort. They should start a podcast, blog, create Youtube pages and share their views and opinions. It may be sensible to create podcasts with a classmate or partners. The research highlighted in the writing section can be used to fuel the content discussed during podcasting or blogging. Why not digitize opinions and experiences? Human beings are at a unique point in history. It is a new

decade, we are in an election year, and the novel coronavirus pandemic has shifted all areas of human activity.

Traditional Academic Resources

Some school districts will offer virtual summer school (online) at some point during the summer months. For families who are interested in that enrichment and further opportunities for growth, below are several online resources, some of which are free. Nylinka School Solutions is not endorsing any of these resources per se, but for many parents and educators, it can be helpful to have resources under one umbrella.

Amazon-Audible’s entire library of children’s resources will be free until schools re-open.

BOKS-Boks offers resources to help parents get children up, moving, and active in the house.

Broadway Teaches Kids-This site teaches visual arts via summer camps.

Camp Wonderopolis- Academic instructional camps for various ages. Check out the wonder of the day!

Connected Camps-Tech Camps for Kids who are into computers, coding, and STEM.

I Could Be-A superb resource for high schoolers. This site provides mentorship to keep teens on track to finish high school

Nylinka Covid-19 Summer Bridge Camp- Focusing on social justice issues via ELA and math. Check out:

PBS Kids- When in doubt, PBS Kids is great! Wonderful content for elementary age kids, that is worry free for parents.

Scholastic-Scholastic has a ton of resources including learn at home content and pack to school packets aimed a gearing up children to learn.

Start with a Book-This is a great resource to keep children in engaged in reading and various activities over the summer.

Monica J. Sutton-Monica is a gem. She has engaging videos for early childhood children that are fun, engaging, and rigorous.


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