Summer is almost gone. During this time of year, my husband and I usually take the last of our summer breaks and restore ourselves with a short east coast trip to celebrate our anniversary. This year, we attended the National Action Network’s Commitment March in DC to commemorate the 57th anniversary of Dr. King’s 1963 historic March on Washington. The speakers were passionate, and their addresses were designed to lead us to a specific message: the time for action is now. They spelled out what was wrong, how it impacts us all, what actions they think will fix it, what every person can do about it, and when: at the ballot box. It was a meticulously delivered civics lesson.

In addition to being civic minded, I, like you, are preparing for a new season of learning…school is right around the corner! This year, however, is not like others, and our usual planning template does not work for COVID. While we’re all striving to get things right, there are still so many unknowns. But we are aware that we have a deep well of partners and stakeholders—including our pediatricians, early education and after school providers, youth development professionals, elected officials, as well as parents, family members, and our youth—who are all willing to extend themselves and work together to fill gaps in our community like never before.

So then…what must be done?

We came together to support technology needs which are at the heart of a remote learning plan—each student will have access to the devices they require and will have MiFi access to enable learning. But that’s not enough. We must also build the necessary capacity and skills for our students—PreK to college—to fully utilize this technology to its greatest potential. This must be done for students as well as parents and family members, many of whom will now take on the role of resident educators within their own homes. This “human-ware” challenge is one of the most important and demanding equity issues this year, and we have neither the luxury nor inclination of taking our time—this is an immediate concern.

In addition to tending to our students’ academic needs in a remote learning setting, we must also tend to their social-emotional and behavioral needs as well as mitigate the residual impact of remote learning on their ability to personally engage with teachers and peers. Remote learning is not optimal, but there is much we can do as a community that can make a difference outside of classrooms through our network of afterschool and out-of-school providers, non-profit community, and cultural assets.

Lastly, we must think critically about how we will support teachers to become the best they can be while teaching remotely, as well as increase their ability to develop authentic relationships with students and their families. Supporting educators to build their technical capacity and to develop culturally relevant skills to meet the needs of their students is a necessity that we can no longer put off or ignore. 

ROC the Future has partners around our table to take to action on each of these areas. These partners as well as community members are concerned about the health and wellbeing—not just academics—of our children, but together we can leverage assets to address these needs. Again, the take-away from NAN’s Commitment March on Washington last Friday: the time for action is now. So, let us take the necessary steps now to help build a better future for our children moving forward.

For the Children,

Jackie Campbell