AVPRIDE outh Programs Coordinator Margarette Coleman participates in "Tea at 2," a daily AVPRIDE staff check-in. From her stand up desk, she is able to virtually communicate with CEO Dr. Tami Morris, Community Outreach Coordinator Jordan Martin, and After School & Enrichment Programs Coordinator Sheila Pace (on-screen with video and audio via google hangouts). They have also used freeconferencecall.com and Go To Meeting. Each has pros/cons. The staff is still experimenting to determine which platform to use for "internal/staff/board" use, small groups, online tutoring, student & parent meetings, and larger groups.

The team at AVPRIDE have a number of programs and activities in place to help students and family during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tami Morris, CEO of AVPRIDE, provided the following information to The Citizen.

Thanks so much for reaching out to AVPRIDE. For 24 years, AVPRIDE has worked with our youth and their families to provide mentorship and leadership opportunities that will enable them to become productive and contributing members of society. Even though our communication methods are changing during this crisis, our mission to support our young people remains strong.

We were fortunate to have had an opportunity for the staff to gather and plan prior to the quarantine and implemented several initiatives last week and are adding more this week.

Our first priority is providing support for our students and their families. This includes a Corona Virus Resource page on our website: www.avpride.com went live on Tuesday. This page includes AVPRIDE activities & resources, ideas for working at home with kids & school, sustainability resources, curbside restaurants, education resources, and health and wellness options at the local and state level. We also are posting several times a day on our social media with book readings, ideas for curriculum-related activities, and support sites. This week we are doing a Spirit Week (see jpegs). We’ve also posted free courses for our teens who may be looking for alternative ways to identify activities that they can add to their college applications.

In addition, we have initiated several ways of supporting our youth and families.

After School Enrichment Program changes

For the little ones who ordinarily are in the After School Enrichment Program, we are launching Homework Tutoring with FYLP Students and AVPRIDE Staff. The sessions will be offered as online group discussions and also 1-on-1. We plan to have this in place by the end of the week and will post updates at www.avpride.com and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Each day at 2:30 p.m., a new Reader Leader book reading will be posted at the AVPRIDE Facebook page.

For the parents of our After School Enrichment Students (grades K-5), we have offered a drive-by food pick up on Fridays (weekly from 12 to 1), weekly check-in calls and emails, and virtual parent meetings to discuss what their children and families need and how AVPRIDE can best help. To order a Friday food pick up, email us at: sheilapace@avpride.com

Our Bridges middle school volunteers ordinarily help out at the After School Enrichment Program (housed at Fayette Middle School). Since this is not possible, the Bridges students are reading books online via Facebook. Our Reader Leader program is now digital. The first two students averaged 300 people reached. Photos will be attached in the email. To volunteer to be a virtual Reader Leader, email ASEP Manager Shiela Pace at sheilapace@avpride.com.

Fayette Youth Leaders PRIDE Program

Perhaps more than others, our high school students are being affected at a crucial time. The Fayette Youth Leaders PRIDE program has 9th through 12th grade students. Many of the seniors and juniors are facing the loss of graduation, proms, sports scouting opportunities, college visits, and more. All this on top of a screeching halt to academic enrichment and extracurricular activities. Our first virtual meeting with the students validated our concerns that they are feeling disconnected, isolated, and bored. While we normally have monthly meetings and volunteer opportunities, we have ramped up our ability to connect. For the duration of this quarantine, we will have weekly meetings focusing on leadership development and career exploration each Saturday at noon. In addition, we have Casual Chat every Tuesday and Thursday at 4 p.m. This gives the students an opportunity to discuss whatever they like and to share how they are coping with the new reality. Students can invite their friends. We have also initiated virtual parent meetings and phone chats.

Bridges Volunteer Jaiden Martin reads “Curious George Goes to the Aquarium”! All the Reader Leader book readings can be found on Facebook.

The FYLP opportunities are being opened up to non-FYLP students, as well. To get announcements about the 3 weekly meetings for teens, interested parents and students should email AVPRIDE’s Youth Programs Coordinator Margarette Coleman at margarettecoleman@avpride.com.

In addition, FYLP students and their friends are encouraged to be a virtual Reader Leader and to submit videos about their special talents, a “how to” video, and/or ways they are adjusting their days to the new online school environment and quarantine. They should email Jordan Martin for instructions: jordanmartin@avpride.com

Questions from The Citizen

What’s going on at AVP?

In addition to our youth-specific programs, we also oversee substance abuse prevention efforts in Fayette and Coweta Counties. Particularly during times of distress, substance abuse misuse can become more of an issue. Since healthy families contribute to resilient youth, we want to remind everyone that we have resources available. Please visit our prevention websites for more information and do not hesitate to contact us via the websites or at info@avpride. For more information, visit www.drugfreefayette.org (co-managed with Fayette FACTOR) and www.drugfreecoweta.org

How are you continuing to serve the community?

This is a challenge for us all. We are intensifying our efforts to serve our youth and parents via digital formats and telephone availability. Our prevention websites (above) may be of particular interest.

What changes have you made due to COVID-19? 

Our youth programs are now virtual and, of course, we cannot provide care at the After School Enrichment Program. However, we have “pivoted” and are offering many services virtually and through phone conversations. It appears that the need to connect is especially strong right now so we are doing all we can to be available. If that means a phone call, an email, or a video chat, we are available.

I do want to note that we have staff with children at home who are now “homeschooling” without any preparation (a full-time job) and trying to work, as almost every parent is experiencing. This is highly significant. I cannot expect staff to perform at the same level as when their children are in a regular school environment. And, we are all cognizant of the fact that the individual student’s experience in an online environment may be different than when in a classroom. As employers, we have to be flexible yet we also need to make sure that our organizations are financially viable. For non-profits, in particular, this is a harrowing situation.

What hasn’t changed?

We continue to be there for our students and families. Our team is amazing and they love working together. I think our initial, collective concern was that we would be divided by the distance. Yet, on some level, the opposite has occurred. We have a regular drop in team meeting each day which we have dubbed “Tea at 2”. There is no specific agenda, yet we accomplish a lot. We’ve learned so much about one another and enjoy the opportunity to ask “what if” and throw out ideas and interact on a different level. It has proven to be very refreshing and fulfilling. This time also has given us an opportunity to advance a monthly initiative to provide training on skills and topics to help us all do our jobs more effectively. Now, we have “found” time to put professional development at the top of the list instead of the “if time” list! This last week we all attended a video teleconferencing conference and the prevention team attended an ethics training.

How can the community help you?

We have no income coming in from the After School Enrichment Program (tuition is half of most programs during the regular year so we always seek grants) yet I still have a staff to employ. Our communications efforts, which are obviously significant at this time, also require donation support. We are working on summer camps now. We would greatly appreciate donations to keep these folks employed. Donations have slowed greatly. We have a “wish list” and hope that our community can continue to support our work during this difficult time. (see attached jpeg)

What are the most frequently asked questions you’re hearing, especially those related to changes?

Mostly, we are hearing from parents that they are encouraged by our efforts to connect with their children. Today one parent, for example, was so appreciative that we set a routine and three events each week for her teen to participate in that she specifically listed all the ways that these opportunities and the schedule were helpful for her student. You just never know. We are listening to our parents and our students and adjusting day by day. This is a fluid situation. We will adjust and get it done. By facilitating connection and communication, we will be doing a great service to our youth and their families.

Anything else you’d like the community to know?

Thank you all so much. We would welcome the opportunity to partner with you. Given that AVPRIDE has been in the community for nearly 25 years, we know that there are so many people and organizations who have been champions. We welcome the opportunity to reconnect. And, we would love to identify new partner opportunities. Funds to support our staff would be amazing. Thank you all!

A resource page for families can be found at avpride.com.

A resource page for families can be found at www.avpride.com.