Community Partners Connect Resources + Share Support Virtually
This past week has presented a challenge for us all as we move through the COVID-19 crisis together. Locally, our teachers, nonprofit leaders, counselors, students, families, and communities have shifted classrooms, meals, and offices for our collective safety and well-being. To meet our students and families as best we can, the Asheville Buncombe Middle Grades Network has moved to convene school principals, teachers, nonprofit leaders, our Community School staff and more online to both discuss the challenges and celebrate what is working well together.
The conversation begins with a deep breath and moment of gratitude to ground and center everyone before digging in-- an important restorative practice that our schools have been implementing as well as our staff at United Way!
Principals, Teachers, and Nonprofit Leaders Sharing Needs, Ideas, and Resources
Principal April Dockery at Asheville Middle kicks off the conversation on what’s working well as well as what her challenges are one week into virtual learning for Cougar students and staff. She shares that her teachers are checking in with students and families each day with a set list of questions to find out what their needs are-- from Internet connectivity issues and troubleshooting access to materials online to food resources and other necessities the student might be needing additional support with.
A chat room of over 100 people listen in, sharing tips, ideas, and resources in the chatbox as she speaks. Laura Elliot, United Way Director of Community Schools then asks Erwin Middle ESL Teacher Sarah Nicholson to share her challenges. She follows to say that it has been difficult ensuring her Spanish-speaking students are able to access the wireless internet hotspot devices the school is supplying for them to access their coursework online. For many, she says, the difficulty is in the language barrier and understanding how to get it set up and working and how to walk through the steps for all of their coursework, for others, it’s transportation to pick up the actual hotspot, and there are many who may be serving other roles at home during this time in taking care of siblings or translating for their parents while away from school.
Jamye Davis, Assistant Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of WNC shares how mentors are working in different capacities to help meet some of those check-in needs for the schools as well. Mentors, aka Bigs, as they’re called in the program, are asking students, aka: Littles, whether they’re able to get online, if they have everything they need, and check in with how they’re feeling right now in moving through this crisis and a sudden shift to online classwork.
As the conversation continues, the live chat feed continues to be populated with resources from throughout Buncombe County. One teacher shares a resource for a kid-specific blog that her students are using to help gather and share their thoughts, a nonprofit is able to connect food resources to support after-hours meals for students, while tips and tools for easy how-to video tutorials are shared with teachers and school staff that they can use moving forward.
The Power of Collaboration, Stay Connected with Us!
Our role at United Way is to be the backbone-- aligning, networking and supporting all of these systems, and ensuring our Community School Coordinators are actively supporting teachers, students, and families. In addition our Community School staff is working to ensure community partners are engaged and that we’re collectively able to help fill in the gaps where needed.
This network has steadily grown for years. That foundation is solid and it is what will carry us through this crisis. We invite you to stay involved during this critical time for us all, because we are stronger when we choose to LIVE UNITED.