Dallas City of Learning Hosts Annual Summer Kicks Conference

On May 27 and May 28, Dallas City of Learning (DCoL) and its partner organizations held their annual Summer Kicks Conference. This year, the virtual event covered four key areas: COVID pivots, wellness, community and new and innovative ideas. Each track provided space to explore the conference’s theme: Building a New House of Learning, and more than 200 learning partners signed up to attend.

“The KICKS Conference has been an opportunity to bring quality professional learning opportunities and best practices to the DCoL Partners as we go into the summer,” said Sergio Garcia, Big Thought’s Senior Manager of Learning Systems. “This year, like last year, is going to be another groundbreaking summer for how we, as a community, are addressing learning loss. Do we have all the answers? No, and that’s OK. We are learning alongside our youth, families and communities as we continue to address learning equity and resource sharing.”

Here are a few key topics covered during the two-day conference.

COVID-19 Pivots

Last March, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted shutdowns and caused immediate, long-lasting changes to our daily lives. As we adjusted to a new normal, organizations overhauled programming by shifting to virtual formats and increasing focus on social-emotional wellness to help youth navigate the challenges they were facing. 

In one session, “Virtual Programming 101,” speakers Tozyea Reed, Manager of Community and Partner Resources for Dallas Afterschool, and Andrea Devora, Lead Assessor for Dallas Afterschool, detailed the different virtual platforms available to partners and focused on best practices for genuine interaction as well as safety. 

SEL and Wellness

As we’ve dealt with the twin crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and our nation’s racial unrest, mental health and social-emotional learning have become more important than ever. 

“The Power of Our Stories” explored how storytelling can be used as a medium to explore SEL and racial equity.  The session was led by Lela Bell Wesley, Big Thought’s Director of Professional Learning, and Leslie Grover, the Southeastern Regional Manager for Narrative 4. Among the other topics explored through the SEL- and wellness-focused workshops were verbal de-escalation and developmental relationships. 

Community & Resources

From learning how to engage corporate support to community-building strategies, sessions in this track highlighted the important relationship between partners and the communities they serve. 

In addition to educational sessions, Summer Kicks participants were able to network with fellow attendees through various themed lounges and in one-on-one sessions. One community-focused lounge included “Food Connections”; hosted by City Square Child Nutrition Program Manager Brianna Fleming, it helped attendees find resources and make food connections for their organizations.  

New and Innovative Ideas

Innovation and dynamic thinking are crucial to progress and growth. That’s why Summer Kicks dedicated time to showcasing new and innovative ideas from partners and thought leaders in the community. 

In “Moving Beyond Surveying: Youth as Partners in Organization Development and Design,” Big Thought Director of Program Design Allie Lee and Big Thought Opportunity Advisor Vincent Coronado highlighted the importance of youth voice. It’s crucial to think beyond tools like surveys and help youth become true co-designers for programming.

In addition to workshops and small group breakout sessions, Dr. Shawn Ginwright of Flourish Agenda delivered the keynote speech, “Healing Centered Engagement in a Post-Covid World” on Friday. Dr. Ginwright discussed the disproportionate impact the COVID-19 crisis has had on communities that are already adversely impacted by health disparities, food deserts and economic disinvestments.

Watch his full speech

“The KICKS Conference is our way of taking what we learned in summer 2020, applying it in summer 2021, and building on those mistakes and successes to provide high-quality summer learning opportunities for youth,” Garcia said. “Like any ecosystem, we are continuing to grow, adapt, and learn as we build stronger communities with our DCoL Partners.”

Thank you to all the panelists and attendees who joined us for the 2021 Summer Kicks Conference! We hope to see you at Dallas City of Learning’s next virtual event: Library Digital Turn Up on July 29 at 2 p.m. 

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