April 15, 2020
We are in crisis and will continue to be in crisis. The families and students we serve in Mott Haven will be hit harder by COVID-19 than most in the nation due to the decades of historical and structural inequities that erect barriers to accessing healthcare, employment, and educational opportunities.
Not only does The Bronx have the highest number of fatalities as a share of its population of any borough — its death rate is also growing the fastest, THE CITY’s analysis of city Health Department data suggests. -Mott Haven Herald, ESE OLUMHENSE AND ANN CHOI
At the same time the Bronx is a community of strength, hope, and opportunity. With community-based relief efforts under way, political advocates, nonprofits, and governmental agencies are leading the way to spotlight gaps and opportunities for Mott Haven youth and families.
How do we move forward from here?
Areté Education is committed to responding to the COVID-19 crisis with hope and opportunity. In the face of staggeringly comprehensive environmental stressors experienced by our students, families, and staff, we are designing remote learning programming, professional learning, and direct services to the 700 youth (and their families) that we serve in Mott Haven.
Since the NYC DOE announced the shift to Remote Learning in mid-March, we have been offering supplemental enrichment and wellness programming for over 250 students online at The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology through video conferencing with educators and peers as well as virtual classroom experiences. Areté and the Lab School have been supported significantly in these efforts by our partnerships with the NYC DOE Office of Community Schools, ExpandED Schools, Hayden Foundation, Heckscher Foundation, and DreamYard.
We are beginning to shift to offer open access programming on social media channels such as Instagram, Tik Tok, and Zoom. As our staff expand their capacities from an on-site service delivery model to digital platforms, we expect Areté to learn and grow to better meet the needs and interests and showcase the talents of the youth we serve. Areté is also working to convert our Census 2020 Youth Leadership Initiative into an online workshop for completing the household census online. For the past five weeks, we have been curating open source content dedicated to COVID-19 Responses by Educators and Youth Development Agencies.
Through a volunteer network, we have secured 20 hotspots for families unable to access wifi, cell, or other internet services through home access or DOE-provided devices. Similarly, Areté is setting up volunteer systems for accepting donations for grocery delivery service to our families facing enormous financial obstacles.
Our most ambitious project on the horizon is an Areté Family Hotline initiative modeled on the Baltimore Neighborhood Network where we will be able to retrain and redeploy our part-time youth development employees from on-site youth programming to staffing a phone line and support team providing referrals and resources for the environmental stressors relating to COVID-19. Similar to the context in Baltimore, we anticipate that our staff, and eventually neighborhood volunteers, will be eager to give back to Mott Haven youth and families through answering the phone with empathy, timely resources, and an opportunity to connect during a context quarantine and unprecedented social isolation.
It has been only a month since we suspended on-site programming for our students and families. The entire world has changed in that time. We are eager to meet crisis and challenge with hope and opportunity.