This past December, SmartLogic and the Digital Harbor Foundation (DHF) launched the COVID SLAM project, an 8-week paid earn-and-learn program focused on pandemic-related issues facing Baltimore’s youth.
SmartLogic is funding the project with $24,000 as well as paid staff mentoring time. DHF is planning and running the program, and partner organization Dent Education is also participating, mentoring one of the teams.
The central question the project aims to address is the following:
“What is the most important and urgent challenge that Baltimore youth face related to remote learning, and what idea can solve or address the problem?"
Twelve students are participating, split into three teams. Each team has defined a possible solution to the problem, and is working on designing and prototyping their own solution, facilitated and supported by a design thinking and entrepreneurship curriculum designed and delivered by DHF. Several SmartLogic team members are also participating in the initiative as evaluators and via a career panel.
The project launched on December 3rd, when the teams were formed, and went through the initial design exercise to determine what their focus would be for the project. Each team defined the main issue they wanted to focus on as well as an approach to a solution, and presented their ideas to the panel of evaluators for feedback.
Surprisingly, all three teams chose to focus on building an intentional community, having each independently identified loss of community and social connection as the most pressing issue to address. One team is focused on building an incentive program for interaction; another is exploring the use of Discord as a virtual space for affinity groups and looking into training teachers on using the tool; the third group is working on ideas related to after-school programming and building a virtual after-school space.
Because of the project’s all-remote nature, the teams are using a number of remote collaboration tools including Notion and Miro.
Two team members from SmartLogic participated as evaluators at the launch event, Joel and Ashley. They observed that the student participants were notably empathetic, both in their communication and in the focus of their proposed solutions. The virtual event ran smoothly, and our team was also impressed with how quickly the student teams seemed to gel; the initial presentations were well received.
Later in December, three of our team members, PJ, Melvin, and Imani, participated in a career fair as part of the COVID SLAM project. The career fair was an opportunity for students to ask questions and learn about career paths and professional life during the pandemic.
A few reflections from the students after the event include:
"One panelist shared that the pandemic is tough, but that he was able to make the most of it. I related to that because I was having a hard time at the beginning of the pandemic but as time went on, I started to feel better."
"I learned from one of the panelists that even if you struggle in high school or don't go to college, you can manage to accomplish amazing things."
"You can change your major in college if it is not the right fit for you. I always worry about this when I apply for college because I don't know what I would like to do in the future."
Our team members also bonded with the students over a love of anime, and appreciated the insightful questions from the students on topics ranging from decisions about career and education to broader themes on life and coping with the pandemic.
The COVID SLAM project continues on for the month of January, and will conclude on the 28th with a showcase event. Evaluators including volunteers from SmartLogic will review the teams’ final presentations, and provide feedback as well as determine who will win the cash prize, offered in addition to the payment students will have received for their work on the project.
Join us for the remote closing presentation on January 28th at 6:30 PM: RSVP Online.
For more information on the COVID SLAM project: