Back in March — when COVID started to shut our state down — the EEC Team had zero clue as to how long we would be away from one another and if we would even survive this storm as an organization. We didn’t know what we were going to do since most of our programming began to get canceled. We began to see so many inequities within our systems across the board; some we always knew existed and some that we never knew could get this bad.
That is when the EEC shifted gears and started more direct service work to get resources out to our communities in need. We were witnessing a public health failure because our communities weren’t being taken care of during this pandemic. Our team member Sameth Mell led the charge in creating our Partners in Change (PIC) program. Partners in Change has been able to gather stakeholders, legislators, community leaders, teachers, education administrators, and started standing bi-weekly calls with the Governor’s office.
We have distributed tens of thousands of masks, and thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer to the community as well as money for communities to feed their families. Our PIC program has allowed us to bring all of these folks together to discuss issues within individual communities as well as action planning and groundwork to get the work done and keep our communities not just afloat but thriving during these tough, uncertain times.
Now….we have some EXCITING announcements!
EEC is partnering with Facebook and Year Up Professional Resources (YUPRO) to develop a Community Technical Support Hotline! This Hotline will be used to address our communities’ needs to access and learn skills to support our remote reality. Everything that can go digital has done so or is well on their way. We want to make sure our communities from our students to our elders have the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in the classroom and in daily life. The Technical Support Hotline will provide just that and we are so excited to be bringing this to the community. We know that having devices is the first step in closing the digital divide, but we are also aware that having devices is not enough.
We will have staff that is able to teach our families and elders how to use these devices and new programs such as Zoom, Canvas, Blackboard, paying bills online, etc. The support hotline will work directly with over 50 community-based organizations in King County. The Technical Support Hotline will be staffed by young adults in King County who have been training in technology work and have been displaced due to COVID-19.
With a $590K investment from the Federal CARES Act, through King County, the EEC is also partnering with Puget Sound Educational Service District (PSESD) to assist in closing Washington State’s digital divide by purchasing and distributing devices to our families for students to get their school work done. This will start a pilot Digital Navigators Program, offering a digital layer to the social safety net and ensuring our families receive digital literacy training in-language, as well as the necessary hardware and internet access. Visit our website for more information on our Digital Equity Proposal, https://eec-wa.org/digital-equity/.
Since the beginning of COVID, the digital divide has been exacerbated. Few of us knew the severity and lack of connection and devices around the state. With most districts being completely remote for the foreseeable future we need to do everything we can to get devices and technical support out to our families. Learning loss is only getting worse the longer we wait to provide these resources for our families.
Thanks to hard work on our team — Sameth Mell, Sharonne Navas, Risa Nagel, Reneeka Massey-Jones, Velma Veloria, and Christi Kieth — we have received $600k in CARES Act funding to provide culturally appropriate foods and food vouchers for our community partners to distribute to Black, Indigenous, Communities of Color.
Our team member and former Representative Velma Veloria has been hard at work on getting money and resources to our small businesses of color across the state as she continues to grow the Lunch and Learn program she started a couple of years ago. We have had more Lunch and Learns during quarantine than we typically have in a year! The turn around for these events are short so we thank Velma for the quick work she is able to do in getting panels together for all of these important conversations. We have some great ideas in the works for our 2021 Lunch and Learn schedule so be on the lookout for when Lunch and Learns start back up.
We are working hard to do everything we can to make things better for our communities. We want to thank you, our partners, and community members for supporting us during this work and pushing on with us not only during these times but over the years. You have watched the EEC grow from a micro-CBO into the organization we are now. Thank you for coming along this journey with us. We look forward to continuing to serve. Without community, the Equity in Education Coalition would be no more. So, thank you!