Pandemic Proof: The Resilience of Aaliyah Coleman

This is the second in a series of blog posts focused on how hands-on learning can be made accessible at homeThis post is by contributing writer Dion Evans. 

To understand the power of a positive response to a pandemic, one must first understand an individual’s potential. On Saturday, March 3, 2020, Aaliyah Coleman, 5th-grade East Oakland Student, had just won the Silver Medal at a Youth Track Meet. She competed in the long jump against fourteen other 11- and 12-year-old girls and was one of two who cleared over 13 feet. After her impressive opening meet, she looked forward to competing again the following week, this time for gold.

However, her meet the following week would never come. Aaliyah’s world would be altered by a circumstance beyond imagination which halted sports competitions for the foreseeable future. A new term would dominate life as she knew it: Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Aaliyah’s neighborhood school closed and immediately cancelled all classes, leaving students in a state of confusion and wondering what dangers could be lurking. Uncertainty ruled. For the young 11-year old, the uncertainty was more than stifling, as it seemed to steal her prior week’s accomplishments.

Adjusting to a new norm and three months into the “Shelter in Place” order, Aaliyah uncovered a new source of joy, one that has kept her occupied, encouraged, and filled with hope. This source was birthed from a chance encounter Aaliyah’s father would have at a food bank.

While visiting a local food bank, Aaliyah’s father was approached by a community activist who happened to be volunteering their service on behalf of Maker Ed. “I was supporting the food bank and Maker Ed when I saw Aaliyah’s father. Because I knew of the Coleman children and how active they were in school activities, I felt it necessary to provide him with some materials to keep the children engaged and learning during this time,” stated Meisha Marshall, an After School Site Supervisor at Bay Area Community Resources (BACR).

Aaliyah shares, “I had first heard about making things with your hands with my Science teacher. I would go to her classroom during breaks with other students and she would give us materials to make things with. It is a cool way of learning, you can make things using your imagination.”

Aaliyah’s father brought home the Home Make Kit for her to explore and she contemplated what she’d create with the items inside. As she fixed her attention on a reddish colored strip of cloth in her package her project’s focus became clear! The red cloth resembled her long jump runway! With a little more work she could recreate her long jump pit. If she couldn’t physically compete for the gold, she could at least imagine it. So, with great enthusiasm, Aaliyah began its construction.

With the materials she received from Maker Ed and the Oakland Unified School District Expanded Learning Department, she formed the long jump runway, the long jump board and sand pit. As her creativity soared, she decided to take a yellow pipe cleaner and fashion it into a version of herself. The figure in motion, airborne and soaring into the felt sand pit, first place! Gold!

“I think it is a good way to learn,” Aaliyah stated. “Imagination is important during this time because you can use your imagination to make something happen that you can’t currently do.”

This post is part of a series about our partnership with after school organizations in Oakland, California. Learn more about the Home Make Kits project here.

If you would like to support this project and help us reach our goal of distributing 1500 home make kits to Oakland youth, please consider making a donation to Maker Ed.



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One response to “Pandemic Proof: The Resilience of Aaliyah Coleman”

  1. Na'Dra Hennington Avatar
    Na’Dra Hennington

    What an inspiring story of resiliency during times of uncertainty.

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