Families across the nation struggled to determine what the upcoming school year would be like; concerns about employment, changing family dynamics and simple survival amidst a pandemic remain at the forefront. Parents who have not lost jobs may now be working from home without the means to support children who must attend in-person schooling.
Though no one knew how long COVID-19 would impact our educational system, we now know that it will never be the same. The limits of traditional education have been uprooted and exposed this year.
After bearing witness to our nation’s difficulties, two community advocates decided to partner together to support families, with a special focus on grandparents.
As grandparents have taken on more responsibilities in raising and assisting their grandchildren amidst 2020 isolation, advocates Jason B. Allen and Dr. Danielle Stewart fulfilled a unique need among grandparents for local services.
The mission of the Lillie’s Foundation and its founder, Jason B. Allen, has always centered grandparents raising school-aged children. Additionally, Danielle Stewart, Ed.D., founder of the Community Empowerment Foundation, LLC consistently provides innovative ways to engage the community around education.
To advocate for all family units raising school-aged children, these two advocates shared a survey in the Summer of 2020 to assess the immediate needs of grandparents.
To date, over 20 grandparents have responded, listing such needs as tutoring for their grandchildren, self-care services for themselves, technological support for the entire family, and advice on navigating through the new virtual educational system.
More action around supporting grandparents raising school aged children amidst the digital divide is necessary especially with children who are battling social emotional trauma and others who have learning exceptionalities.
It’s hard for working parents to navigate digital learning so imagine our retirees who are now having to utilize technology in a different way. School districts should form partnerships to meet the needs of the students and caregivers such as grandparents with support academically with devices needed for their grandchild(ren), counseling support (if needed), and internet access for these households, especially if the grandchildren are already identified as at risk.
Working with this population of caregivers has allowed us to help grandparents raise their voices for awareness, support, and resources for them. The Community Empowerment Foundation and Lillie’s Foundation hosts an annual Grandparent’s Advocacy Day during the month of October.
This year, we will continue focusing on bridging the gap in the digital divide for grandparents. They need a lot of social, emotional support and unfortunately many public schools don’t have the resources or capacity to do so. Collectively, the Community Empowerment Foundation and Lillie’s Foundation are filling in the gap.
About Danielle A. Stewart, Ed.D. , Founded In School Spirit after writing her dissertation on the Former Minority Students Perceptions of Self-esteem from an Atlanta K-12 Private School Experience. The quantitative research revealed that the experiences of Black and Latino(a) students proved to be perceived similarly. Further confirming that the challenges that minority students face in private schools could be more minority driven opposed to ethnically driven.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.