Success For Each Child & Eliminate the Opportunity Gap by Leading with Racial Equity

Program Strengths and Challenges

The Kent Connects program evolved over the course of six years, including responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a range of strengths as well as challenges.  


Over the five years of Kent Connects, the program had a number of strengths before and since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic: 

  • Adaptability and responsiveness: Over the six years of the grant, the flexibility and adaptability of Kent Connects was clear, both before and following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
    • Family engagement: Both sites hosted and participated in a range of family events over the years.  Program staff connected with families through alternative means when efforts to attract families to traditional events at the school in the first year of the project were not as successful as anticipated.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, the program responded and adapted to be able to provide supports and site coordinators rose to the occasion to leverage their unique position of being a trusted link between students/families and the school. Additionally, the program hosted multiple virtual family events to help maintain connections to families during the pandemic.  
    • Data/measurement: The program’s adaptability extended to how it used data to understand program implementation and impact: 
      • In the early years of the grant, the program established their systems to collect attendance data and improved on these systems over time.  
      • Over time, the program adjusted its family surveys to better reflect the focus and intent of family activities.  The survey questions were more relevant for families and provided more useful information for the program. 
    • Student activities: Both sites offered a wide range of student activities, in response to student interests and needs.   
      • In one year, Mill Creek’s multicultural night included student group performances, through which Pacific Islander students got to know each other better and resulted in these students forming a close-knit peer group.   
      • The programs also strengthened relationships between staff, students, and teachers.  At Meeker, the Glover Empowerment Mentoring (GEM) program was integrated into the school day beginning in fall 2019 and, according to the site coordinator, “create[d] a link between the school day and the after-school program focused on social-emotional learning and skill-building.”  
  • Partnerships: Particularly before COVID-19, the Kent Connects program exceeded its goals around community partnerships.
    • After some challenges in the early years of their new partnership (see Challenges), Meeker and After School All-Stars (ASAS) worked in partnership to deliver 21st CCLC programming, and ASAS continued programming after the 21st CCLC grant came to an end. 
    • Both schools developed deep connections and relationships with partners and forged partnerships to provide more robust and quality programming and supports to students.  
      • Meeker offered various field trips through multiple partnerships and expanded the learning opportunities offered to students.  
      • Mill Creek relied on its partnership with the school building and staff to provide transportation and meals to students. Additionally, Axios was a critical partner over multiple years at Mill Creek. Together, these partners met the acute needs of students and families, particularly those most vulnerable and experiencing difficulties during the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
    • Before the COVID-19 pandemic, both sites had a Community Advisory Committee that met throughout the year and supported connections among partners and each school.  
  • Student Participation: In terms of overall participants, the program consistently served a large number of students, except in Year 5 (2020-21) which was the year of virtual school and programming during the COVID-19 pandemic. In all other years, both sites served over 100 students, and often far more than 100.  Meeker’s highest participation was in Year 2 (2017-18), with 284 overall participants.  Mill Creek’s highest participation was 286 students in Year 3 (2018-19). 



  • Operations: There were some operational challenges, particularly related to staffing, including staff shortages and turnover, especially in the early years of the grant and during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Additionally, in Year 3, the program had to discontinue some of its transportation service due to increased costs.  
  • Partnerships: As noted above, the number and range of partnerships was a strength of Kent Connects.  At the same time, there were partnership challenges in the early years of the grant.  In the first two years of the grant, there were challenges in coordinating and collaborating with ASAS, though communication and collaboration improved in Year 3 with a new ASAS Coordinator.   
  • Regular attendance: While both sites had strong overall participation, the program did not consistently meet its objectives for regular attendees (attending 30 days or more over the course of the year).  Meeker hit the objective for regular attendees in Year 2 of the grant, when 140 students (49% of total participants) attended 30 days or more.  Mill Creek also hit the objective for regular attendees in Year 2 of the grant, when 113 students (50% of total participants) attended 30 days or more.   
    • With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting the final three years of the grant, it is possible that the program would have met these objectives in other years, as well. One coordinator noted in Fall 2021: 
      “We were fortunate in being able to hold program in-person this year. However, as this was the first year to return to in-person programming full time, many families and staff shared how cautious they still were in preventing the spread or getting sick due to COVID-19. Program attendance was impacted by this and we saw fluctuating attendance numbers throughout the fall portion of program.”