The big changes one non-profit in LA made to help at-risk students stay connected in the pandemic
With hope that Los Angeles schools could reopen soon, concern is growing that at-risk children could suffer from long-term learning difficulties in their return to school. The Bresee Foundation has a plan in motion to keep students in Central Los Angeles engaged as difficult months remain ahead.
Students across Los Angeles are hungry to return to their classrooms and resume some sense of normalcy after almost a year of coping with the pandemic. And many of these students are just plain hungry.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused a twin crisis among underserved children. In Central Los Angeles, thousands of students over the last year have become disconnected from their schools’ virtual learning and to exacerbate matters, these very students are not getting enough food to eat.
“Children are experiencing unprecedented levels of food insecurity, which is associated with lower educational attainment, increased disciplinary actions, lower test scores, developmental delays and reduced future economic mobility,” says Ana Grande, Associate Executive Director of the Bresee Foundation.
Since its founding in 1982, the Bresee Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Central Los Angeles has provided services and solutions to support the needs of youth and families, especially recently immigrated Latinx families who remain close to the poverty line.
“How do you break a cycle of poverty? The Bresee Foundation has always believed that the best way to start breaking that cycle is through education,” says Grande.
The Bresee Foundation’s community center has served as a safe environment for recently immigrated children and their families throughout Central Los Angeles.
The Foundation offers children, many who are first generation Americans and speak little English, after school programming ranging from mentorship, school instruction, sports participation, and ESL instruction. The Foundation also helps children’s parents navigate complex matters ranging from legal and immigration services to asset building and tax preparation.
Simply put, the Bresee Foundation has delivered hope and created pathways for countless families in Central Los Angeles as a steppingstone into the American middle class for nearly 40 years.
But with the restrictions of the pandemic, Bresee has been severely limited in the number of community residents it could serve in person at its community center. Over the last year, the Foundation’s focus shifted almost immediately from helping families achieve their dreams to simply helping them to survive.
What does this mean? It has provided real money to families to combat poverty.
According to Grande, since the pandemic, the Bresee Foundation has provided $198,000 in grocery gift cards and grocery distribution to local families. It has also provided over $5.7 million in financial assistance and emergency rental assistance to families.
Importantly, the Foundation has also provided resources to children enabling them greater access to computer technologies. Grande says that the Foundation has provided over $127,000 in computers and internet hotspots to local students giving them the opportunity to stay connected online to their schools and classes.
And with support from JPMorgan Chase, the Bresee Foundation has educated parents on ways to improve their financial health and literacy through direct financial coaching.
To say nothing of the hard work that the Bresee Foundation has accomplished since the start of the pandemic, its work has not gone unrecognized. At the start of 2021, the Foundation was admitted to the UnidosUs Affiliates network which welcomes community-based organizations that directly serve the Latinx community across the country. This network advocates for organizations that have high standards for leadership and accountability and being able to implement innovative solutions for local communities.
But as the Bresee Foundation continues to give families much needed support, Grande remains concerned for the months that still lie ahead for the children her Foundation supports.
“Kids are just absolutely aching to be back in school and it has been incalculable for them this last year losing so much structure and time in the classroom. Over the next six months, we must continue finding resources to support families. If we don’t, we may risk leaving many children behind.”
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