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57,600 minutes. How do you measure a quarantine? In losses, in shutdowns, in zoom calls and cups of coffee. In resilience, survival and unwavering belief. 

As we close out six weeks in quarantine, we continue to take stock. Today, the governor of Georgia began opening businesses back up, but we all know it won’t be business as usual. While the doors of commerce may open, the most vulnerable among us will still be isolated from opportunity. And those of us working on their behalf will continue to build our resolve to inoculate our communities from the disease of poverty and #InvertTheBurden caused by systemic marginalization.

Last week, in response to my question “What needs to be different when this crisis is over” several of you added to a growing list of answers: a living wage for workers, reduction and elimination of college debtdismantling bureaucracy that prevents organizations from meeting people’s basic needs, operating from the guiding principle of Ubuntu – the African philosophy that all humans are interconnected.

Leaders across our community, including our Achieve Atlanta Scholars, are envisioning a new world. One of these amazing Scholars, Bianca Smith, provides inspiration for us and shares how she’s coping with the COVID-19 crisis. I’m honored to share a bit of her story below.

Let’s lead with love in this season of uncertainty and please keep sending me your list of things that need to change in our post-pandemic world.
 
Be well,

Tina Fernandez
Executive Director, Achieve Atlanta
Bianca graduated from Maynard Jackson High School and will earn her BS in Biology from Xavier University this May. She’s a member of our initial cohort of Achieve Atlanta Scholars and has accepted a position working for CityYear New Orleans in the fall. Below are some questions I asked Bianca and her responses.

How did you feel having to leave Xavier early due to the COVID-19 crisis?
Having to leave Xavier was bittersweet. I could not fully accept that it was my time to move on. But the pandemic has unintentionally shown me that I will be okay. After I had to leave Xavier without properly saying goodbye, I thought my world would end. I kept thinking that I wasn’t ready, but I am. Xavier is such a family that you never truly feel alone. There’s always homecoming, phone calls to classmates, and other opportunities to stay connected.

How are you coping with not having a traditional graduation?
It is dejecting sometimes. For a time, I felt like I had worked hard for no reason. But after some reflection, I realized I worked hard for my degree. I will still get that. I worked hard to make my mother and grandmother proud. I did that. I worked hard to get knowledge and to make a way for kids that look like me. I did that.

It’s easy to worry about things out of my control, so I’m choosing to focus on what is in my control. I will still have graduation – my day will come. I must remind myself to be patient and understanding because we’re all doing the best we can in this pandemic and we’re all learning as we go.

What’s your advice for incoming Scholars who are learning remotely in a time of uncertainty?
Keep a schedule of your courses and your work. I’ve done online classes over the summer and, believe me, it was difficult but rewarding.
I am a visual and auditory learner, so I had to adjust learning the material for myself. I rewrote notes, watched videos with illustrations and wrote on my personal whiteboard to learn material. There are ways to adjust, so don’t stress too badly.

Socially, amid the pandemic, I encourage you to reach out to classmates and form study groups, attend your virtual freshman orientation, participate in social media activities with your fellow classmates, and study with friends in your town and compare what you’re learning about your university. The adjustment may seem difficult, but we are all rooting for you! I know I am!

To read more from Bianca, click here.
Achieve Atlanta recently received a $30,000 grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and a $30,000 donation from an anonymous donor via Scholarship America that will be used to support Achieve Atlanta Scholars who are facing financial emergencies during this pandemic and beyond. We are very thankful for these funds as well as the individual donations that have come in from members of our community. 
 
One of our emergency grant recipients said:
“Thank you Achieve Atlanta! Your additional support during the current crisis was timely and appreciated!!!”
 
We have awarded almost $160,000 to Scholars to date. If you’d like to support an Achieve Atlanta Scholar during this crisis, you can donate here.
This week, Atlanta Public Schools announced it will conduct a virtual graduation celebration between May 18th and 21st and plan for a traditional graduation program when State and Department of Health guidelines allow. We understand how difficult these changes are for seniors and their families and will do our part to celebrate them in creative and safe ways. Our APS graduates’ dreams will not be canceled, and we are continuing to see an increase in Achieve Atlanta scholarship applications. Please join us in celebrating seniors on social media and during the virtual celebrations.
Achieve Atlanta is providing a valuable mental health benefit to all Scholars and their immediate family members known as the Student Assistance Program (SAP). We have partnered with McLaughlin Young Group, an independent provider of SAP services. The SAP offers help for personal and/or professional concerns by providing free, confidential, short-term counseling and personal consultation. 

Some examples of concerns that the SAP addresses include:
  • Family conflict   
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Relationship issues   
  • Communication breakdowns
  • Grief and loss                                     
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Stress   
  • School-related issues
To seek assistance through the SAP, Scholars can simply call 704-529-1428 or 800-633-3353.
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Achieve Atlanta · 191 Peachtree St NE Ste 1000 · Atlanta, GA 30303-1741 · USA