Our Response to COVID-19
What unique challenges are Steps students and families facing?
Beyond the stresses of school closure, many Steps families face frightening economic uncertainty. If they are essential workers whose employers remain open, Steps parents (and even students) must keep going to work to preserve their jobs and make ends meet. Our students thus have to fend for themselves at home, and perhaps also take care of younger siblings. For others, reduced hours or job loss cuts directly into already stretched family budgets for rent, utilities, household items, diapers, clothing, and food.
How have Steps staff been responding? How are others helping?
Our small but dedicated Steps staff has been working closely with partners in the Public Schools of Brookline (PSB), the Brookline Housing Authority, local organizations, and other town and state agencies to provide information and services as quickly as possible to assist our Steps families in a comprehensive and coordinated manner.
Elementary and Middle School Students. The Steps team has been checking in with each elementary and middle school student’s family to ascertain their current needs, including the individualized support each child may need to limit learning loss during school closure. Our Elementary/Middle School team has also been sending a weekly newsletter and hosting virtual enrichment activities that younger students and families can engage in during the day. While not a replacement for in-person academic and enrichment support, we are finding that what many of our students need most is check-ins from a caring adult on a regular basis. Navigating an unknown summer landscape with camp and program closures has put new stressors on our families. STS is in the midst of planning and implementing virtual summer programs, a new experience for our students, staff, and families.
High School and College Students. Steps College Success Initiative Program Director Tony Wells and Career Explorations Manager Lynne Courtney are coordinating our outreach to older students through individual check-ins. CSI is ensuring that students continue their classes online and stay on track to complete semester requirements. Our team has also helped students arrange virtual college tours, complete financial aid applications, and apply for summer internships. College students forced to return home due to campus closures are being helped with emergency needs through the Steps to Success Student Support Fund. A successful transition to college for high school seniors and job readiness/career exploration training is a priority for the summer months ahead.
What are the most immediate needs and priorities?
Our top priorities over the past two months have included:
Food. We are making sure that Steps families are aware of hours and pick-up locations for free food from the Brookline Food Pantry and free breakfast/ lunch through PSB Food Services. In May alone, nearly 1,500 breakfast and lunches have been provided to STS families in need through PSB food distribution at the Brookline Housing Authority.
Money for Basic Needs. We are also informing Steps families about financial support available for rent, utilities, household needs, and food through the Brookline Safety Net Fund (administered by The Brookline Center and funded through the Brookline Community Foundation). We are directly administering the Steps Student Support Fund and have provided over $2,000 in funds for emergency needs.
Technology: We have ensured that families know how to pick up and use Chromebooks for their children being provided by PSB for distance learning during school closure, including staff directly dropping off Chromebooks to students at their homes.
Babysitting and other supports. We have also been connecting our families to Mutual Aid Brookline, a new organization that brings local volunteers together with neighbors in need.
As this unprecedented situation continues to evolve, our staff will keep working closely with community-based partners to meet the unique needs of our students and families. We are committed to ensuring that everyone in the Steps family feels connected and supported during this difficult period. And all of this is possible thanks to the generosity of our supporters and the collaboration of many partner organizations and agencies in this remarkable Brookline community.
We will get through these challenging times, working together. Thank you again for your many expressions of support and encouraging words. We are truly grateful.