During this unprecedented time of uncertainty and educational disruption, Project Rise and Akron Public Schools are working hard to ensure families experiencing homelessness do not fall through the cracks.
Project Rise is a federally funded program through the Ohio Department of Education. This program is a collaborative effort between Akron Public Schools, local shelters and the Akron community to provide supplemental educational services to children and youth experiencing homelessness. The primary goal of Project Rise is to remove barriers to the education of homeless youth, which the organization has continued to do during the COVID-19 disruption.
Project Rise Intake staff are continuing to reach out and identify families who are without housing or have recently lost housing due to COVID-19. Other Project Rise Staff continuing to serve families directly are the Academic Advocates. There are advocates specifically designated to each school cluster and also advocates assigned to work with families in Akron’s homeless shelters and transitional housing programs.
Academic Advocates are ensuring that all Project Rise students have access to learning materials, district-issued chromebooks and access to internet connection. They are working closely with teachers and shelter staff to ensure students and families are engaging with classroom content online. Advocates are also doing wellness checks for families and the following items are addressed: address changes, food needs, educational needs, enrollment questions and housing issues.
Working closely with Student Services and Community Partners, all Project Rise staff are working hard to ensure that identified families are not lost amidst the crisis.
Shannah Carino, District Homeless Education Liaison, said of the situation: “families of all socio-economic backgrounds are struggling right now, so you can imagine that the extra weight of the crisis is falling extra heavily on their shoulders. We are seeing a lot of food instability, lack of resources and unaddressed maintenance issues, all in addition to lack of stable housing.”
Project Rise continues to work closely with their invaluable partners at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church who operate DLM Food & Resources. This food pantry and resource room serves Project Rise families directly and since the onset of the quarantine order, volunteers and church staff have delivered groceries and other resources to Project Rise families in doubled up situations. Project Rise and DLM Food & Resources are not accepting in-kind donations during this time, but monetary donations are being used toward extra food, hygiene supplies and cleaning supplies for families in need. Donations can be made online via the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church website.
Project Rise is also working closely with other partner agencies such as area shelters, Open M, other food pantries and meal sites and InfoLine.
On the Programming side of Project Rise, Programming Coordinators are also still working with teaching staff and community collaborators to maintain partnerships. Staff are working to maintain digital contact with teen students in the mentorship program. Teaching staff are using google classroom and programs like FlipGrid to engage with students virtually and keep them on track with both school work and social-emotional learning. Staff are also maintaining digital newsletter that are shared with families and include helpful links, local resources, activity ideas and encouragement.
So far during the 2019-2020 school year, Project Rise identified and served close to 1,900 students who were experiencing homelessness in the APS School District.
For more information on Project Rise and how you can help, please contact Rachel Breece at 330-761-2969 or firstname.lastname@example.org.