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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Remote Learning in East Los Angeles during COVID-19

According to our June 2020 survey of Star rated nonprofits, 72% of organizations have suffered financially due to the pandemic. Additionally, 54% of respondents have cut back on program services due to the pandemic/economic shutdown. To overcome this disruption and to continue to serve communities, many nonprofits are adapting and innovating.
Today, we are honored to share a first-hand account of what innovation and adaptation look like during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic crisis from PUENTE Learning Center.

Over the last several months, PUENTE has adapted to COVID-19 by providing high-quality distance learning, handing out laptops to families in need, and distributing free meals to our community members. Even though the way we deliver programs has changed, our mission remains the same.

Throughout the crisis, PUENTE has met this moment with a full response that spans our four program areas:

Community: To date during COVID-19, 90 volunteers have provided a total of 1,273 hours in support of expanding services and awareness to over 700 PUENTE students, including 10,000 pounds of fresh food distributed to assist families in remaining food secure.

Children: Our preschool and Elementary School are serving 242 children ages 3.5 to 9 years old during COVID with daily synchronous online instruction, small group additional support for English learners, a continuation of special education services, daily after-school virtual engagement, student recognition ceremonies, parent engagement sessions and daily “grab and go” meals.

Youth: The PUENTE College and Career Program is empowering 450 high school and college students through a series of virtual classes, workshops, mentor meetings, career counseling sessions, and online field trips so that our students may graduate high school, persist through their post-secondary education, and contribute their skills for success in school and life.

Adults: Adult Education is offering distance learning for 1,245 adult learners, six days a week from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. with classes in English as a Second Language (ESL), High School Diploma & HiSET Certification, and Career Skills.

We are preparing to open our doors again. There is no substitute for learning in a classroom setting, and total reliance on online learning may result in learning loss for many, perhaps the majority, of students. As soon as it’s safe, we will be prepared with non-contact thermometers, personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer disbursers, and increased staffing.

Looking ahead to the long-term, we are adapting our programs to be more flexible and responsive. During this pandemic, we have learned that many of our low-income families cannot afford reliable internet access or technology. Our constituents often share one cell phone for the entire family’s use, including personal, work, and learning needs. To close the opportunity gap, we have distributed over 100 mobile hotspots and 150 laptops to increase access to reliable internet and technology needed for remote learning. Our goal is to eventually provide a mobile hotspot and laptop to every student who cannot afford one. Since communities of color are bearing the brunt of the economic consequences of COVID-19, our education and support services will be especially needed as we enter into the phases of recovery. Access to technology will be a crucial component in providing our community members with the education they need to fulfill their educational dreams.

Education remains the most powerful tool we have to bring about change. Together, we can move forward into a hopeful future, free of COVID-19, and with equal opportunity for all.

Written by Jerome Greening, CEO of PUENTE Learning Center.

Jerome Greening is the CEO of PUENTE Learning Center. During his 20-year tenure at the organization, Jerome also served as PUENTE’s Chief Operating Officer and Charter School Principal. Through his focus on data collection and evidence-based decision-making, Jerome has strengthened program operations and outcomes for the thousands of students who attend PUENTE each year. He is a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles.


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