News: Member News

NCAN Members Are #Here4Students (and Their Staff) in Response to COVID-19

Monday, March 30, 2020  
Posted by: Carm Saimbre, External Relations Associate
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The last few weeks have been uncomfortable. Disruptive. Scary, even. As the world deals with the coronavirus pandemic, finding the small joys has proven necessary to quell anxieties and remind ourselves that taking care of one another is critical during these challenging times.

Achieve Atlanta’s Executive Director and NCAN Board Member Tina Fernandez said it best in last week’s Achieve Atlanta e-newsletter: “And, while milestone events, graduation ceremonies, and celebrations have been cancelled, our students’ futures will not be cancelled.”

NCAN members are working to ensure that although the academic year has been disrupted, their commitment to students – as whole individuals, not just academically – remains solid. Similar to many community-based organizations that serve college students, I Know I Can in Ohio is concerned about students’ basic needs: housing, food, and transportation. Kim Ebbrecht, senior director of programming at I Know I Can, said they are contacting every one of their college students to find out how the organization can provide support.

“To date, we have completed almost 1,000 calls and have learned that students are struggling with access to food and having money for food,” Ebbrecht said. “We are finding ways to help students with access to groceries, gift cards, and temporary housing. In the end, students seem to be comforted from having one of our staff members connect with them.”

Leaders are also pivoting quickly to find ways to care for their staff who care for students, some of whom now have to juggle responsibilities as parents and caregivers while at home. Kwame Griffith, president of OneGoal, said the organization temporarily moved to four-hour workdays and is providing unlimited wellness days to staff, recognizing that it is not just the workday that has been flipped on its head. OneGoal is active in six regions across the country: the Bay Area, Chicago, Houston, Massachusetts, Metro Atlanta, and New York.

“It’s really allowed staff to do what they need to do,” Griffith said, adding that the flexibility also allows the student-facing staff to continue giving their all, despite the circumstances.

In an effort to minimize the spread of COVID-19, states across the country have shut down schools for the remainder of the academic year. These measures have upended day-to-day operations, as schools move to distance learning and online instruction.

J. Morgan is director of communications at Partners for Education (PFE) at Berea College in Kentucky, one of the first states to close its public school system in response to COVID-19. Morgan says that in addition to using virtual communication platforms like Zoom, FaceTime, and YouTube, PFE has also taken an old-school approach to reaching their students.

“We’ve used good old snail mail to encourage students and provide resources,” said Morgan. “In the mail, we’ve included SASE [self-addressed stamped envelopes], so students can mail back if they choose.” Keeping those lines of communication open is important!

Whether by Zoom or snail mail, Laurel Wilder, director of marketing and communications at College Now Greater Cleveland, agrees that one message should remain at the forefront of all these efforts: We are here for students.

“Our advisors know that our students need them now, in many ways, more than ever, to ensure that they do not get off track and are able to continue their postsecondary planning just as they would in person,” said Wilder.

We are, and continue to be, inspired by all our NCAN members who give so much of their time and talents to our students.

How is your organization supporting students during this time? Let us know on social media using the hashtag, #Here4Students.

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(Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash)