On May 15, the NCS Youth Programming Team – made up of staff members from NCS Community Centers and Teen Centers – launched NCS Connects (#NCSconnects), Fairfax County’s first virtual programming platform specifically for youth and teens of all abilities in grades 1-12.
When NCS centers closed their doors in March due to COVID-19, it was only a matter of weeks before youth members began asking staff when they could come back. Not knowing when that might be, NCS Regional Manager Pallas Washington knew they needed a different way to reach teens – and fast. With the recent announcement that Fairfax County summer camps are cancelled, the need for virtual NCS programming has become even more immediate.
“We began to hear from our youth audience that they missed attending our centers and seeing our staff,” Pallas said. “Directing them to Library, Parks or Schools programming simply wouldn’t work because they wanted to see and hear from the people they know and have developed relationships with.”
The solution is NCS Connects, which is designed to emulate the experience of visiting a Community or Teen Center. The platform features original programming such as self-directed activities and videos led by familiar staff members, as well as on-demand resources for youth and parents in five categories: adapted virtual learning (provided by Therapeutic Recreation Services), culture, academics, health and wellness, and STEAM.
The activities at launch included Bookworm Workout for young children, Exploding Lunch Bag for grades 6-12, and Rock Painting for all ages, among others. The platform also kicked off with two videos: a circuit training workout for teens, and a special message to youth featuring more than a dozen NCS staff.
New weekly activities will be added every Monday, and NCS centers are providing a limited number of supply kits needed for activities each week.
To create even more engagement, NCS Connects will also feature a new social challenge each week. For the first challenge – Virtual Spirit Week on May 25-29 – participants will share themed photos on Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #NCSconnects. Ideas for future challenges include cooking and art contests, scavenger hunts and online gaming.
According to NCS Service Area Manager Torrey Piper, NCS Connects is already receiving positive feedback. In a focus group conducted with teens ages 14 to 18, participants said they love the look and easy navigation of the page and are excited for the possibilities it brings.
If you are interested in activities for adults and seniors, visit the new Virtual Center for Active Adults.