Local organization overcomes barriers to educate during pandemic

Local organization overcomes barriers to educate during pandemic

LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) – There’s no question the mental health of children has suffered throughout the pandemic, and while it’s been hard for them and their parents, local and state organizations have continued their work to overcome the challenges.

Communities in Schools is an organization in Laredo that focuses on helping young people stay in school and connects them with resources including mentoring, school supplies and mental health services.

CIS recently received a $110,000 grant, which will help address the local need to overcome barriers to education.

The sound of the bell ringing is somewhat of a foreign sound to many grade-school students who haven’t seen their classroom in person for more than a year.

The result has been a significant loss in learning.

According to a Texas Education Agency study, the effect of student learning from March 2020 to early fall 2020 was about 3.2 months of instructional loss.

”It’s been a challenge for families, particularly working families who are still just trying to keep the dollars coming into the home and feed their families and keep the lights on, so we certainly recognize that having to shift and become teachers on top of that has been a challenge,” said Vicky Coffee.

Coffee is the director of programs for the Hogg Foundation of Mental Health at the University of Texas.

The organization received a $1 million grant through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and rather than keeping it, they distributed the funds as grants to nine different Texas organizations, including Communities in Schools of Laredo.

CIS’s mission is to do whatever it takes to help students be successful and to remove barriers to learning. They received $110,000 from the Hogg Foundation.

”Our mission of course remained the same, but the how was a challenge,” said Rosaura Rodriguez, the executive director of CIS. “We had to work very hard to reach them, to reconnect them to school and to keep them engaged.”

Rodriguez says about half of last year’s overall budget was allotted for COVID-related supplies for students, parents and schools.

“Every child matters, so the work continues. In spite of schools being closed, we never let that interfere with the work that we’re doing every single day,” Rodriguez said.

CIS says the funds will mainly go toward improving mental health access.

They partner with PILLAR, which is a mental health organization that offers therapy, crisis intervention, and more.

In addition to Laredo and Webb County, CIS works with students and families in Zapata County and Jim Hogg County.

Copyright 2021 KGNS. All rights reserved.

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