Apr 8, 2020 · 5 min read

CZI Supports Services for Students in Underserved Communities Impacted by COVID-19

The Grant Funding will Provide Critical Support to EducationSuperHighway and Fugees Academy in their Efforts to Support Students from Underserved Communities Transition to Distance Learning

March 24th, 2020 | A mother helps her daughter with her school assignment while working from home under shelter-in-place requirements. | Photo by Alain Pitton/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) today announced $300,000 in funding to EducationSuperHighway and Fugees Academy to support students impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. These grants are aimed at supporting students in underserved communities during the transition to distance learning and build on the more than $1.3 million already provided for resources for families and school districts impacted by school closures. With more than 50 million K-12 students sheltered at home, schools across the country are working to support student learning and development virtually. 

“During these unprecedented times, we’re honored to support these organizations in their efforts to help close the digital learning gap and provide vital services to support the well-being of students across the country,” said Sandra Liu Huang, Head of Education, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

These grants include:

  • $200,000 to EducationSuperHighway to support the Digital Bridge project’s efforts to provide connectivity support for thousands of students across the country from underserved communities.
  • $100,000 to Fugees Academy to help foster the safety and well-being of their students – who represent nearly 40 countries of origin and speak nearly 50 languages – during this time of school closures. At their tuition-free independent schools in Georgia and Ohio, the funding will help limit additional disruptions and ensure continuity in the students’ education.

As the pandemic progresses, communities are experiencing a myriad of challenges, with the greatest health, economic and social impacts being borne by communities that were under-resourced prior to this crisis. One of these challenges educators face in transitioning to distance learning is that nearly 12 million students lack access to a broadband connection at home. To help address that, EducationSuperHighway is partnering with school districts to help them extend connectivity to students from underserved communities who need to participate in distance learning due to COVID-19 and related school closures. This work builds on EducationSuperHighway’s successful efforts to close the classroom connectivity gap by upgrading the internet access in every public school classroom in America.

“As schools close their doors, the coronavirus pandemic has exposed America’s homework gap. Digital Bridge will provide thousands of students in the San Francisco Bay Area with the Internet access they need to continue learning during this crisis,” said Evan Marwell, Founder and CEO at EducationSuperHighway. “We are proud to provide this immediate support and look forward to sharing a playbook of lessons learned and practical solutions for addressing the comprehensive connectivity needs of students everywhere.”

As part of this project, EducationSuperHighway is partnering with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) and the 1Million Project Foundation to provide connectivity to students in San Francisco who lack home internet access, including the deployment of up to 25 WiFi “Super Spots.” The city is working to secure and deploy additional Wi-Fi hotspots, which will complement the 25 new Super Spots and the existing free, high-speed internet provided to low-income residents through San Francisco’s Fiber to Housing program. EducationSuperHighway will be partnering with other districts in the coming days and weeks as part of this project. 

Fugees Academy’s unique model includes a positive focus on identity and culture, and comprehensive support of refugee families, which includes helping students and families access social services, medical services and health insurance. This focus led CZI to feature the school as one of ten models that are expanding the definition of student success by going beyond academics — to more fully consider the developmental needs of the whole child. Each of the schools included, reflects elements of Comprehensive Student Development, a research-based framework designed to ensure that every young person enters adulthood with the knowledge, skills, habits, and agency to thrive in a changing world. 

“I think it’s important to remember that families’ mental and physical health needs to be our top priority. Kids can’t learn if they’re hungry or sick,” said Luma Mufleh, CEO and Coach at Fugees Academy. “I know from working with my students at Fugees Academy schools that we can help kids catch up academically. But overcoming trauma — and families will face trauma in the current environment — will take more time.”

During this pandemic, the school is expanding its services to meet the needs of their students and families. It has made computers available to their students to use for distance learning and for live check-ins across their community. Fugees is also focusing on the physical and mental health of their students – using the time to learn if there are families in crisis and find out what they can do to try and help. The school is also finding creative ways to exercise with remote soccer practice, online yoga classes and dancing. 

For more information about how CZI and our grant partners are responding to COVID-19, visit https://chanzuckerberg.com/covid-19/.


About the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

Founded by Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg in 2015, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) is a new kind of philanthropy that’s leveraging technology to help solve some of the world’s toughest challenges — from eradicating disease, to improving education, to reforming the criminal justice system. Across three core Initiative focus areas of Science, Education, and Justice & Opportunity, we’re pairing engineering with grant-making, impact investing, and policy and advocacy work to help build an inclusive, just and healthy future for everyone. For more information, please visit chanzuckerberg.com.

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