The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the academic achievement of the nation’s children and adolescents, both in and out of the classroom. Educators, school staff and leaders, parents, and caregivers have come together to combat some of these effects; however, the pandemic has unevenly impacted students, deepening already existing disparities in K-12 and postsecondary education that have long existed among minority, low-income, and disabled students. Since the pandemic’s onset, student achievement has declined in math and reading, and disparities in access to technology, especially among the many minority students who lack internet access at home, have been exacerbated due to the switch to virtual learning.
Big Idea Project
This gap in academic achievement mobilized Charleston County stakeholders to address these glaring disparities and open the After-Hours Academy, a new social enterprise business. The mission of After-Hours Academy is to ensure equitable access to education, technology, and resources for underserved minority students in Charleston County, South Carolina. After-Hours Academy will provide tutors, computers, access to Wi-Fi, and social support for families and/or caregivers. This innovative approach is the first of its kind in Charleston County. The unique aspect of this business is that students will be hired as mentors to assist other students, utilizing a peer-to-peer leadership model. Also, technology access and social support will be provided to parents and/or caregivers to facilitate additional resources and/or referrals for mental health services.
There is no sufficient strategic plan to ensure students’ participation in the education process for middle and high school learners. Therefore, to provide access to distant education technologies, Charleston County introduces the After-Hours Academy. Among the contributing factors are the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing policies. It caused an interruption of the educational process and a shift to a virtual learning model. As a result, such problems as a lack of alternatives to distant education and limited access to technology among the vulnerable population appeared. The After-Hours Academy aims to address the gap in access to education among students from a vulnerable population. This start-up will help to improve the situation with a decline in academic achievements among Charleston County and support the students in achieving career and life goals.
The new strategy will overcome the negative influence of COVID-19 on the education system. The performance will be measured according to the number of students who have the necessary equipment for participating in the education process. Among the long-term objectives and goals is gathering enough resources and equipment to offer similar educational support projects in other counties of the state.
The goal of the After-Hours Academy program is to improve access to virtual education for students from underserved communities – minorities, low-income households, and disabled individuals. Among the program, objectives are employing student tutors and developing a peer-to-peer support network. The After-Hours Academy also guarantees that 100% of all requests will be reviewed and granted based on the needs assessment. Moreover, 75% of all enrolled participants will improve their academic performance due to access to the necessary resources. The program should be started in the period from April to July 2022.
The necessary tools include devices (such as laptops), learning software, communication software accounts, and tutoring services. After the start of the After-Hours Academy operation, additional evaluation of the business results is necessary. Thus, the follow-up tasks include the assessment of student academic achievements, the business’ outreach to prospective participants, marketing effectiveness, as well as ongoing financing evaluation. Reports on the program’s effectiveness and goal-reaching will be created first weekly, then monthly. Separate reports with achievements and financial needs will be presented to participating sponsors, including the crowdfunding contributors.
If one needs to develop a marketing plan, one should draw significant attention to choosing an appropriate marketing strategy. The After-Hours Academy offers service to multiple customer groups, meaning that versatile marketing approaches are needed. On the one hand, the enterprise contributes to positive change among students and their families. Since minors and their relatively young parents are active users of the Internet and social media, it is appropriate to rely on online marketing strategies.
That is why organizations decide to create and distribute social media posts. On the other hand, schools, staff members, and even governments are also interested in promoting the enterprise. Even though these stakeholders use the Internet, it is rational to rely on offline marketing strategies to address them. Thus, two marketing materials, including a social media poster and a flyer, will be provided.
The infographic includes 5 columns. The first one contains information about the program. It is indicated that After-Hours Academy strives to provide education under COVID-19, student integration, peer-to-peer leadership model, student mentorship, and improving distance learning. The same section mentions that After-Hours Academy addresses gaps in K-12 and post-secondary education among minority students, low-income and disabled students. A separate column is dedicated to the mission of After-Hours Academy in Charleston County, which is to ensure access to education, technology, resources, and equal student opportunities. At the bottom of the infographic are the contacts of the program, such as an address, phone number, and email.
An important aspect of the program is its social impact, which is also reflected in the slide. Such positive outcomes as increased Internet access, students’ and tutors’ resources, better academic achievements, minimized educational gap, and vulnerable students empowering can be highlighted. The lower right column is dedicated to the various outcomes of the program. This list includes items such as 100% virtual equipment coverage, 100% minority support, and 100% low-income support. In addition, the program will provide 100% disabled students’ support and 100% student participation. Its other important consequences should also be mentioned, such as a 10% academic achievements increase, 0% tutor turnover rates, 5% salary compensation, and 3-5 sponsoring companies.