Sheer Strength in Persisting
"We are proud of the tremendous effort our students have put forth in creating generational change and paving the way for their families and communities."
Carolina Youth Coalition is a college-access, non-profit organization that helps high-achieving, under-resourced high school students get into, excel in, and graduate from college. When the World Health Organization first declared COVID-19 a pandemic, we had a moment of disbelief and worry for what that meant for our students and the families we serve. There are numerous unjust systems, policies, and practices (more than we can count) that we knew would make handling a pandemic more difficult for our families and students. That meant that our college-enrolling students could experience hardships in making it to college the following fall, or our high school students facing challenges committing to their education while in the midst of so much uncertainty. And though initially we felt fear, worry, and stress, we soon adapted, as did our students and their families.
Our programming prior to COVID-19 was in-person; post COVID-19 our programming is now all virtual. We provide our students with various exposure to professional and personal development which has not been altered due to the pandemic. Though at times there was difficulty in maintaining student motivation to continue to participate virtually, we adjusted our schedule and programming to reflect student needs and boundaries. Our priority in programming is to ensure that our students feel connected and valued, and as we saw a decline in student participation, we took a break from official programming and gave some time to build community instead by doing virtual bingo, dance rooms, and other shared activities where we all could share some laughter.
Financially we provided our students and their families with COVID-19 relief to aid with groceries, utilities, or other financial needs. We allowed our students to rent out computers if they had limited access to one. Our space was open to students, per student request, for those that did not have reliable internet access.
While COVID-19 has brought tremendous barriers and losses to our students and families, our students have reflected their level of commitment to themselves and their communities. Our graduating class of 2020 successfully enrolled in college at a 94% rate, when rates of college attendance dropped. Our entire class of 2019 persisted into their second year in college. And our class of 2021 is currently well underway in committing to their schools of choice and students are expected to enroll in college this upcoming fall at the same rate of their previous peers. We are proud of the tremendous effort our students have put forth in creating generational change and paving the way for their families and communities. We are extremely proud of the amount of time and effort our community members, volunteers, and staff have put forth in ensuring our students persist.
Our students displayed a tremendous amount of resiliency, their families proved yet again that they are persistent and adaptive. Despite the many changes and difficulties that came with the pandemic and the loss of loved ones and resources, our students and families showed us the value of union, resiliency, sticking together, and sheer strength in persisting.
- Maria Diaz