Pleasant Valley Connection’s after-school program for kindergarten through fifth grade students looks different this fall: There are fewer students, so they can follow social distancing guidelines, and hours are longer to accommodate Greenville County Schools’ altered schedule. Instead of offering homework help, staff members are assisting with virtual learning, so every child gets the special attention they need.
While preparing the facility for the beginning of the school term, Executive Director Leda Young reflected on the summer enrichment day camp that had just ended, and looked forward to welcoming the group that would soon fill the rooms.
“It was the highlight of my summer to see those children together again,” Young said. “We’re so grateful to have the same cohort year to year. It speaks well that our parents have that level of trust. Our licensed child care facility doesn’t have the newest amenities, but we have strong relationships. They know their child is in good hands; it’s like leaving them with a relative.”
PVC adapted its youth program to give parents peace of mind as they navigate this unusual year, taking pressure off those who would otherwise have to figure out how to work full time while helping their children get their schoolwork done and providing extra help for children who could have slipped through the cracks.
“A lot of child care providers are having to stretch,” Young said. “Everybody is doing the best they can with the resources they have. We will monitor the situation and adjust where needed, making sure parents are comfortable.”
One way the organization is maintaining that sense of security is by providing personal protective equipment to keep children and staff members safe, funded in part by a grant from the Community Foundation of Greenville. Pleasant Valley was one of five minority-led nonprofits that received grants in honor of those who have suffered from racist acts and institutions.
The grant will also go toward hiring a new director for PVC’s Talented Tenth Teen Center, which has been closed for the last few years due to a lack of funding, Young said. The center is welcoming its inaugural group of middle school students who previously participated in the elementary program and now are ready for the next step.
“Leadership Greenville renovated our teen center, and it is a beautiful facility now. The kids are very excited,” Young said. “They are strong students at Hughes Academy, and we’re looking forward to working with them and their principal and counselors.”
Young hopes to fill the director position this fall.
“The right person will be someone who can understand our strategic plan, our goals and vision, and think outside the box,” she said. “They will form partnerships with schools and businesses in the community to guide teens through middle and high school as they prepare for college and a career.”
In addition to these offerings, the campus is home to a Head Start program operated by SHARE. But PVC serves more than just children, Young said, describing it as “the heart of the community.” There’s a vibrant Senior Action program, now providing free drive-thru meals. Before COVID-19, space could be rented for community events and social activities.
At monthly neighborhood association meetings — currently on hold — elected officials check in with constituents, and police and fire department representatives inform the community about vital issues, Young said. Neighbors build relationships and become involved, celebrating successes and facing challenges together.
“There is so much potential here,” she said. “This building belongs to the entire community. Whatever the needs are, if Pleasant Valley Connection can facilitate, we’re here to do that.”
For more information, visit https://pleasantvacon.wixsite.com/plesantvalley.