Inspiring a Love for Education: The Distance Learning Center

June 01, 2021 Joe Klenotich

Atomic Data believes that children are our future. That’s why Atomic Data supports amazing organizations like Start Reading Now, a non-profit that places books in the hands of children who need them the most, and the Sanneh Foundation, an organization that empowers youth through educational, social, and physical wellness programs. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Atomic Data even started a program of its own: the Distance Learning Center (DLC).

Imagine working for a company that cares about your family so much, it develops a safe way for your children to study, be tutored, and engage in extracurricular activities during a pandemic. That was Atomic Data CEO Jim Wolford’s goal. With two sons of his own, Jim knows how important it is for children to continue their education, no matter what. So, he came up with the idea for the Distance Learning Center — a place where children of Atomic Data employees could go to continue their learning, even while schools shut down.

Atomic Data decided to use its former building in the North Loop of Minneapolis as the location for the DLC. Many employees worked hard to transform it into a learning center where the kids could each have their own spaces to do schoolwork. There were also areas where kids could meet together and do activities as well. But it had to be done safely. Hannah Wagner, executive assistant to the CEO, lead all administrative efforts for the DLC, including enforcing strict COVID-19 protocols. As such, each child had routine temperature checks, health questionnaires, and were advised to wear masks at all times in accordance with CDC and state guidelines. Families also agreed to be conscious of pandemic safety in their personal lives.

DLC tutors assisted children with their homework and made sure that they could effectively use technology to attend virtual classes at their schools. And when they weren’t working, they had plenty of opportunities to engage in fun activities! Outdoor events, outings to apple orchards and pumpkin patches, yoga, field trips, birthday celebrations, art projects, planting, and themed days were all part of the experience. “We didn’t know what education would look like during the pandemic, but we wanted to make sure that kids could look forward to coming and be at a place where they felt comfortable and safe,” said DLC tutor Charlotte Deegan. One notable project the students worked on was creating a giant mural for Black History Month. Each child painted 5–7 photos which they assembled to form a beautiful mosaic. Part of their education included morning meetings where they would learn about influential figures and discuss their contributions to society throughout the week. DLC tutors also prioritized discussions on relevant events such as the 2020 election.

“We didn’t know what education would look like during the pandemic, but we wanted to make sure that kids could look forward to coming and be at a place where they felt comfortable and safe.”

– Charlotte Deegan, DLC Tutor

In total, the DLC enabled 17 children to continue their education. And parents got to witness it all! The DLC staff created a yearbook so families could look back on the great times they had together, and a monthly newsletter connected everyone.

Parents were incredibly grateful for the DLC. Stacie Marshall, a parent of three children who attended the learning center said, “The DLC has been a life saver for us. I would tell everyone about it! It’s not often that companies think about creating programs like this or offer it to their employees. I can’t thank Jim Wolford, and the whole team who made this happen, enough for having the mindset to make this work during a global pandemic.”