Inspiring Minds Focuses on a Safe Summer

WARREN, Ohio — Despite the coronavirus pandemic, hundreds of local youth participated in another safe, successful Inspiring Minds Summer.

Beginning July 6, students participated in the nonprofits ninth annual program, which provides education, enrichment and exposure for students in grades 3-12.

In a survey administered at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, Inspiring Minds students were most worried about school (81%) and their futures (69%) because of the pandemic.

“We know how important, academically and personally, our summer program is for students each year,” said Deryck Toles, Inspiring Minds founder and CEO. “With so much uncertainty surrounding the new school year, this summer may have been our most important yet.”

Working closely with Warren City Schools and the local health department, Inspiring Minds determined this summer was a critical time for students and their needs would be best met with modified, in-person programming.

“Over the past nine years, Inspiring Minds has become an integral partner in bridging the summer learning gap for students in our district,” said Warren City Schools Superintendent Steve Chiaro. “We were in full support of the IM summer plan and available to aid the program’s success in any way possible.”

In light of the challenges created by the pandemic, Inspiring Minds accommodated the students safely for education and physical activities, how they explored colleges and industries, “even how we enter, exit and spend time in our buildings,” Toles said.

HS Program Instructor and IM Alumni, Danajah Coleman, takes the temperature of Jaylan Johnson, 11th grade, as he enters the building.

Some of the safety precautions implemented by the nonprofit included social distancing, remaining six feet apart in rooms with reduced capacity, constant hand washing and sanitizing, taking temperatures daily, providing and requiring masks, and hiring extra staff dedicated to cleaning facilities before, during and after programming each day.

Amari Hightower, an incoming senior that has been a part of the IM program for eight years, described the summer as different, but still fun.

“We still got to do a lot of activities that I’m thankful for,” said Hightower. “It gave me something to do instead of sitting in the house all day, it gave me a reason to wake up every morning.”

Third grader Ja’Miyah Culvers attended her first summer session and described it as “amazing.” She had fun playing outside and learned how to tell time on analog clocks, she said.

Some of the students’ favorite socially-distanced activities included archery, fishing, entrepreneurship projects, STEM activities, swimming, playing outside, and having fun friends.

Toles said he’s proud of the students and staff for stepping up to new challenges, from maintaining a clean physical environment to encouraging a positive mindset.

“This pandemic was a big factor, and even though we had to wear masks and stay sanitized all the time, we still did a lot and it was fun,” said Ta’Jon Williamson, ninth grade.

Pictured at top: IM senior, Tonié Smith, working on a STEM project with Deryck Toles to create her own T-shirt using a heat press machine.

Source: Inspiring Minds

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.