CLEVELAND — With practically no notice or preparation, the pandemic threw many parents into the role of teacher. While the stress of staying connected to remote learning has been challenging for some families, a learning lifeline is just a call away.
One Cleveland organization is stepping up to make sure every student succeeds, whether they're at their kitchen table or back in the classroom.
Pivot—a word now synonymous with this pandemic.
“Everybody needs a little assistance during this time,” said Sarah Days.
For those focused on student success, staying the course has required changes.
“Kids have gone through so much in the past year,” said Days.
COVID-19 has presented a whole new set of needs for the staff at Say Yes, a national organization that works to get students to college.
“Anything I can do to reduce barriers to kids learning I will do,” said Days.
From technology and internet services to daycare, food insecurity and emotional support, there's been a lot to tackle for the Cleveland "Say Yes" chapter.
“Helping out, delivering school supplies, making sure the kids’ computers are working,” said Days.
Days is a Say Yes family support specialist.
“It’s just nice to have an extra set of hands, an extra set of eyes,” said Days.
Right now, there are 46 specialists deployed to Cleveland Metropolitan School District and partner charter schools.
Each specialist helps families remove potential roadblocks to education by connecting them with support services.
“They made it their business to do what needed to be done,” said Thomasina Drake, who has been assisted by Say Yes.
Days takes time during the week to deliver meals so students can concentrate on schoolwork instead of their grumbling stomach.
“If I’m not full I’m not working to my full potential,” said Days.
Days is at the Drake family home every week, dropping off food for breakfast and lunch.
“Say Yes goes a long way,” said Drake.
For Drake, these COVID-19 house calls go well beyond keeping her kitchen stocked. They provide much needed concern and care.
“'How you doing?' 'How are you holding up?' 'Yes, I can help you.' 'Yes, is there anything that you need?' 'Yes, I’m just a phone call away,'” said Drake.
Drake, unable to pick up her sons' materials for the new semester was grateful she said yes when asked if she needed help.
“Seven math books, a couple reading books, couple supplies for him, new Spanish book,” said Drake.
All dropped off at the family's home.
“If you say yes to Say Yes, they can help you,” said Drake.
Looking ahead beyond the pandemic, as students start to return to classrooms, Say Yes hopes to have one of their team members in every CMSD and partner charter school by 2023.
“I’m excited to see what the hybrid model is going to look like,” said Days.
The Mandel Foundation is throwing $500,000 in funding to back the initiative.
“It’s just so important to make sure there’s really as few barriers as possible to kids learning,” said Days.