Serving Our Community Through A Pandemic
It is hard to believe that it’s only been two years since the COVID-19 pandemic began when it feels like 10 years have passed since we entered the real-life version of the movie Groundhog Day. And yet, March 2020 also feels like yesterday. As the entire world simultaneously shut down, City Year AmeriCorps members and staff sprang into action to serve our students and schools and answer some of our most pressing questions:
- How will we be able to take care of our staff and corps?
- How will we serve our students and our community in the face of a global pandemic that’s shutting the entire world down?
- And how will we ensure that our corps members receive their educational award and stipend if they aren’t able to finish out their service year?
The health and wellness of our staff and corps was a concern for us from the beginning of the pandemic and these priorities remain top-of-mind today because the work we do in our schools wouldn’t be possible without our greatest asset: our people. Understanding this and keeping it at the forefront has been a key to our success in navigating the pandemic locally and keeping everyone as safe as possible.
Our initial steps during the COVID-19 pandemic
We were able to purchase personal protective equipment, or PPE, as a national organization and distribute it locally to the schools we serve in San Antonio. Securing and distributing PPE – from wipes to masks, filling our food pantry for the corps (thanks to our partners at H-E-B!), and providing additional time off to staff and AmeriCorps members to balance family and work responsibilities allowed us to take care of our people. We were also grateful to have national sponsors and local champions who donated additional supplies to ensure we had what we needed to serve safely in our schools once we returned to service.
| Learn more about City Year’s impact and approach to supporting students and schools during the pandemic.
We knew being completely remote in those early weeks and months would take some getting used to for everyone and our corps members’ number one concern was ensuring their students felt supported. Technology and internet services were scarce in many households. Additionally, there was a concern for students who faced food insecurity. When our partner district, the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) called on City Year to support the distribution of technology and meals at partner schools, our corps jumped at the opportunity to spend time with their students, even if at a distance.
As our corps members lent a hand onsite, staff worked closely with principals and district leadership to better understand how we could help to support teachers and students in the virtual space. Once students were set up to learn virtually, City Year AmeriCorps members provided social emotional support, planned virtual events, operated technology so teachers could teach, assist with attendance calls, and offered whole classroom support.
Adjusting to the “new normal” of the pandemic
As the pandemic continued and many companies closed or laid-off workers, we were able to retain staff and corps at the same capacity as we had pre-pandemic and this year. The budget cuts and adjustments that we had to make were small considering what we saw happening around us. And thanks to our incredible government relations (GR) team and their tireless advocacy, City Year corps members were able to receive their full Segal Educational Award and continue to receive their stipend for the duration of their service. We are fortunate to work with colleagues on our headquarters team who advocate for the support our corps needs to serve the students within their respective communities.
| Learn more about how you can use your Segal Education Award!
City Year San Antonio’s learning journey continues
There are so many lessons we have learned over the last two years of living in a pandemic and we continue learning every day. Our People & Operations team remains focused on mitigating risk and caring for our people, so they feel safe and prepared to serve.
Our students are the heartbeat of our mission. If we do not care for ourselves and one another to ensure our metaphorical cups are filled, it is impossible to fill the cups of others, including the young people we serve. Our students deserve us at our best so they can be their best. City Year will remain committed to putting our people first so we can continue our service to a cause greater than self.
Stephanie Gargiulo serves as the Chief of Staff for City Year San Antonio. In her role, Stephanie oversees people strategy and operations, including talent acquisition, workplace planning, and staff development and engagement, as well as budget design and developing operational systems required to help the site run smoothly. She shares with us how the People and Operations team have safely and positively led their site through the pandemic.
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