More and more studies have shown that students who abruptly had their school year end in March due to COVID-19 pandemic are suffering some form of depression or isolation.
Unable to bond with friends, fellow classmates, and teachers as well as having their social lives severely curtailed during pandemic has taken its toll on students these past four months.
“This has been quite a school year,” said East Boston Excel Academy Charter School Executive Director Owen Stearns. “You know that feeling you used to get when school would be out for the summer? That visceral release as you celebrated finishing the year and were looking forward to the summer? There are many things I miss about life before COVID-19, but our students (and staff) not being able to have that feeling is high on the list.”
Stearns said that not all educational learning is ‘academic’ learning and students need social development and engagement with kids their own age.
In order to help struggling students and families in these uncertain times Excel has launched a mental wellness counseling page at https://sites.google.com/view/excelcounseling.
“As you probably know, Chelsea and East Boston were hit particularly hard by this pandemic with some of the highest infection rates in the country,” said Stearns. “Our students and their families were not only at a higher risk of infection, but they also experienced high rates of job loss – and related food insecurity. And of course the strong sense of community which is such a core part of Excel has been challenged by the need to be socially distanced for so long.”
Stearns said what has become clear is how important Excel’s work has become in the community.
“It’s about community and connection, and meeting our students and their families where they are,” said Stearns. “To that end, we have been providing 1,000 meals/week to our families since we had to close our doors, and our counseling team created a mental health website and Instagram – @Excel_Be_Well – that was featured by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. And while we continued providing our academic program during the last few months, our teachers and counselors were highly focused on making sure students were staying connected and engaged – and felt supported during such a challenging time.”
In order to continue this important work, Stearns said the community has really stepped up and supported what Excel is doing.
“And of course the support provided from an earlier appeal made a huge difference,” said Stearns. “The community contributed nearly $70,000, which has been donated directly to more than 70 families so far for food or other emergency expenses. The community’s compassion for people facing such significant challenges isn’t surprising, of course. Thank you for being with us over the past 17 years, and particularly for your support in this moment.”
Stearns said Excel faces an uncertain and challenging year in the fall and one obvious area of concern is around its budget given the broader financial challenges we are facing as a country.
“Ninety-five percent of our revenue comes from the state, which hasn’t released a budget yet,” said Stearns. “If you are able to make an end-of-year contribution in support of our work, please visit https://secure.lglforms.com/form_engine/s/MKEjgHVTfVfMMV-uE2SmbA and let us know if you would like to give another way. We know we can get through this together, and we deeply appreciate you helping us do so.”