YMCA of San Benito County program works to support families during distance learning


The YMCA of San Benito County is launching a program called , to support families who need childcare as well as support for their children while during the upcoming school year. It’s offered in partnership with the Hollister School District, North County Joint Union School District and Navigation Schools of America (Hollister Prep).

“We are hoping to support childrens’ academic success during these difficult and challenging times,” said Mayra Zendejas, executive director of the local Y. “Working parents with children in the school system will need reliable, affordable support and care during the day. We want to support our community’s families in any way we can. By giving children a safe and nurturing place to go during the day we will be meeting a community need.”

Excel Beyond the Bell will kick off on the first day of school; Aug. 13 for Spring Grove and San Juan Elementary; Aug. 17 for Hollister School District and Hollister Prep.

“We will be offering the program for Hollister School District families to attend at Sunnyslope; Hollister Prep students will attend at R.O. Hardin, and Spring Grove School will be used to host North County students,” Zendejas said.

Because of space limitations, each site will accommodate 60 students. The Y will revisit hiring more staff and acquiring more space based on demand and space availability.

“Our program will consist of a curriculum that will offer social and emotional support, physical activity, STEAM and academic support (together with the schools and teachers),” Zendejas said. “We will assist students in completing daily assignments while being in a safe environment that promotes healthy relationships and academic accomplishment.”

Nick Bakich is Hollister Prep’s vice principal of culture and operations. Although Hollister Prep is a charter school, it’s housed within HSD’s boundaries and shares its campus with R.O. Hardin.

“During this incredibly trying time, we are extraordinarily fortunate to have a community partner available to help serve our families,” Bakich said.

This is not the first time the has risen to meet the needs of the local community. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zendejas collaborated with Senior Program Director Crystal Canchola and their team to open up a option for essential workers. When the pop-up closed on June 16 the Y transitioned to its traditional summer camp program, where a majority of the participants are from essential worker households.

YMCA staff, a majority of whom are college students who hold units in child development, will be in charge of leading small groups with a 12-1 ratio in the Excel Beyond the Bell program. “Superintendent [Diego] Ochoa has been very supportive and has given our staff team the opportunity to participate in trainings that the school district is hosting,” Zendejas said. “Trainings include Footsteps2Brilliance, Eureka Math and a few more that we are waiting to confirm.”

Staff will be taking measures to prevent the spread and transmission of COVID-19 during the program. Zendejas said this will include reduced group ratios, hiring additional staff to clean and disinfect, conducting daily health checks of staff and participants, practicing social distancing, requiring staff to wear personal protective equipment at all times, and requiring students to wear masks when in classrooms. In addition, parents will not be allowed on campus and will be asked to remain in their vehicles when dropping off or picking up students.

“We also take our responsibility to the program seriously,” Bakich said. “In addition to providing space for YMCA to operate, we are ensuring our staff follows all safety protocols while on campus to offer a safe place for Excel Beyond the Bell to care for Hollister’s children.”

The fee-based program is offered at two different price points, a part-time option at $125 per week from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and a full-time option at $175 a week from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Zendejas said they offer financial assistance scholarships for families that need the extra help or might not be able to afford the total cost of the program.

“People sometimes qualify for aid with 25%, 50% or more of the weekly cost,” she said. 

for the program are now being accepted. For more information, email ccanchola@ymcacentralcoast.org.

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