Despite a global pandemic, the Clarkston Community Center served over 40,000 people in 2020. We were helped by a dedicated core of over 65 volunteers both virtually and in-person, and 21 community partners. Our programs and services spanned the age ranges from infant to seniors. Discover the success of our programs and services below:
A key component to our success was our ability to reach youth of all demographics, cultures, and religions. Nearly one third, (32.4%), of Clarkston’s population are children under the age of 18, while the same group is little more than 20% of DeKalb County’s population. And the need for academic support for youth in our region is great. Less than 20% of Clarkston area elementary students are exceeding 3rd grade reading standards. Sadly, only 9% of our middle school and lower high school students are exceeding 8th grade math standards.
It is our obligation as a community leader to ensure that the youth of our community are prepared for high school and are receiving the skills necessary to go into the workforce and/or post-secondary education. We recognize that a high school graduation rate of 68.4% denotes that a third of our community students are not reaching 12th grade or not meeting graduation requirements and this is unacceptable.
If we are to ensure a successful future that exhibits, and above average quality of life of the residents of the Clarkston area, we must provide the resources to aid that change that must come forth. For these reasons, we created a series of youth programming that is designed to promote education equity, promote cultural awareness, and provide academic enrichment and support.
CCC Quiet Zones:
September 2020, we took a deeper look into the needs of our community and in October we launched the CCC Quiet Zones. The CCC Quiet Zones is a program where DeKalb County students are allowed access to technology in order to participate in virtual classes offered by DeKalb County Schools. Students come to our center and receive academic and technology support along with breakfast, lunch, and snacks for free. Initially, we aimed to enroll 20 DeKalb County students at maximum capacity for the program for safety reasons and staffing limitations. However, we ended the year having enrolled 28 DeKalb County students.
As stated, CCC Quiet Zones were designed to provide assistance to households struggling with digital learning.
Our intention was to address this education equity issue by focusing our efforts on providing a free service to students who could truly benefit from this service especially the following demographics: Black Americans, Children with Learning Disabilities, Children of Single-Parent Households, Immigrants & Refugees, English Language Learners, and Children of Low-Income Households.
It became apparent throughout the pandemic that students who’ve been historically disadvantaged were falling even further behind. We strongly believe that by creating a resolution for the lack of technology, adult supervised spaces for learning, and access to tutors with experience working with English Language Learners, we would be able to decrease the education gap from widening.
In response to our program, DeKalb County School District applauded our effort, partnered with us to provide wrap around services to students’ families, and invited us to be a community partner.
- Overall, the community responded positively to this new program offering. We were able to reach families that did not frequented the Community Center. Also, we were able to provide additional services outside of the Quiet Zones such as food pantry services, transportation assistance, and coats for the winter.
Creating Successful partnership with Amazon to bring jobs to our community!
The Clarkston Community center is proud of our partnership with Amazon to bring jobs to the community. During the difficult times of 2020 when most people were losing their jobs, we were able to help people in the community. Through our partnership with the country’s largest online retailer, Amazon was able to interview 10k people and hired around 4k. We are honored that we could be a part of the impact this had on so many families in Greater DeKalb and the Atlanta/Metro area.
DeKalb County Community CARES Act Assistance
Without question, the economic effects of the pandemic, unfortunately, made its mark 0n history. Across our nation, our state, and DeKalb County we witnessed countless households face unexpected financial challenges caused by the pandemic. In response, the United States Congress passed the CARES Act to provide assistance to families, businesses, and healthcare providers.
DeKalb County was a recipient of these funds and relied upon community agencies, like ourselves, to help distribute these funds to families who would greatly benefit from this assistance. We received a total of $50,000 and aided 37 households with rent assistance, eviction prevention, food pantry, mortgage assistance and utilities assistance.
COVID-19 Testing Site
Per communique from the CDC, one way to combat the Corona virus to increase the availability of COVID-19 testing. It has been documented that the Coronavirus disproportionately affected communities of color not just in DeKalb County, but across the nation.
The Clarkston Community Center resides in the most diverse square mile of the United States so it was necessary that we ensured that our community had access to as many tests as possible. In partnership with CORE, DeKalb County Board of Health, and the International Rescue Committee, we served as a COVID-19 testing site for our community testing approximately 1,600 individuals.
Clarkston Cares Food Pantry
Over half of the children residing in the Clarkston area are living in poverty and 63.4% of families in the area are not financially stable. Many Metro-Atlanta residents were in need, emergency food assistance and necessities, as well as education and skill development, to improve their ability to overcome life’s challenges.
Our food pantry opened in September 2011 to provide low-income families, as well as families facing crisis, with food, baby essentials, and (when available) clothes and hygiene products twice a month.
Our pantry is made possible through a partnership with the Clarkston United Methodist Church, Oak Grove United Methodist Church, Hands on Atlanta and the Atlanta Community Food Bank. For 2020, we served 947 households and 4,616 individuals through our food pantry which show a significant increase due to the effects of the pandemic.
In response to the pandemic, we increased our food security services. We’ve consistently provided food to families through our food pantry with respect to safety. Our pantry services have transitioned from in-person to a drive-thru service where families can receive between 10-20 pounds of food (based on household size).
Items distributed range from non-perishable items (i.e. canned beans, pasta, boxed cereal) as well as fresh produce and meat (based upon availability). Through a partnership with DeKalb County & Atlanta Community Food Bank coupled with hundreds of donations we’ve been able to continuously provide a significant amount of food to feed a household for a week to two weeks.
To ensure that our senior residents and high-risk individuals (identified by CDC standards) also have access to food, we deliver pantry items to their house or apartment. Although our pantry is scheduled to operate twice a month on Saturdays, if we are aware that a family is in need or we receive communication regarding a family, staff members are available to provide immediate pantry services or delivery.
Based on the demand and what’s available, we’ve opened our food pantry more than twice a month throughout this pandemic.
- We’ve served more families than ever before! Our reach has broadened and we are providing food to families we’ve never services and have received donations for the pantry (food items and financial assistance) from new donors.
Promoting Voter Education & Get Out The Vote Efforts
2020 was a year besieged by political ads for candidates coupled with the push to get people out to vote. As a pillar of this diverse community, it was an honor and our duty to serve as voting precinct during this unprecedented election year.
Millions of Georgians voted early while others voted on election day. Serving as an election day voting precinct site, we saw close to 400 individuals come out to exercise their civil right. As an effort to encourage people to remain in line, we provide snacks, water, and chairs (if needed) to voters. In partnership with other refugee serving organizations, we provided translation services as well.
Seniors On the Go Programs & Services:
- Virtual & In-Person ESL Classes - Prior to the onset of the pandemic, our ESL classes were held in-person, twice a week on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9am - 12pm. Out of a need for safety, we transitioned our in-person classes to virtual platforms (Zoom & Google Classroom). Our senior ESL classes were structured based on a participant’s English proficiency.
For 2020, we enrolled a total of 18 seniors in these classes; 11 participated in Beginner English classes while 7 participated in Intermediate/Advanced English classes. Countries represented were the following: Burma, China, Congo, and Somalia.
- Successes: We were unsure how our seniors would respond to the change from in-person to virtual. Many gladly accepted the change and were grateful for the new method of learning and communication. Many were able to see friends and classmates they they’ve not been able to see in person. Also, not only did they have the opportunity to learn and improve their English skills, they also learned how to use digital technology for leisure activities as well as assisting children and grandchildren with school/homework.
Senior & Adult Technology Class - Many of the seniors that attend our ESL classes also attend our technology class. Our technology class was held once a week on Thursdays from 9am - 10am and was hosted in partnership with Georgia State University. Prior to its in-person postponement (due to the pandemic), 8 students were enrolled in which 5 were seniors.
In the technology class, students learn basic fundamentals of using a computer and internet, how to create and use an email account, how to use Microsoft Office Word to create letters, how to Skype, typing skills, and how to use search engines.
- Successes: The need and desire for seniors to learn how to use technology is great and the class was widely received by both traditional U.S. born participants as well as foreign born students. The technology class served a great method of community building and allowed seniors to gain exposure to cultures & individuals they typically would not have communicated with.
- Tai Chi Qigong Class - As means of relieving stress and maintaining physical health, seniors participated in our Tai Chi morning classes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Prior to the pandemic, this class was held in-person. This small class was often held prior to the start of ESL classes at 8:30am. Seniors were encouraged to participate to socialize with others and serve as a great relaxation outlet. This program transitioned from in-person classes to virtual classes held on Zoom.
- Successes: Those who participated felt like it was a great jumpstart to their day and may have been the only exercise they performed for the week.
Clarkston Youth Development Initiative After School Program:
Despite the pandemic, we served a total of 43 youth (pre-COVID) for in-person afterschool programming, and 21 youth (during COVID) for virtual afterschool programming.
Once our in-person afterschool program was suspended (abruptly) due to the closure of schools in the spring of 2020. Because of our partnership with DeKalb County’s Project 180 (Youth Mental Health) Program, we were able to continue providing services to our afterschool participants in the form of mental health activities, COVID-19 Safety information, PPE, and hot meals throughout the week.
Under normal circumstances, we would track a child’s progression to the next grade level - however we were not able to do so for the 2020 school year because our students suffered from a severe interruption to their academic experience and most were passed to the next grade level not based upon proficiency in state testing subject areas.
While in-person students had been able to participate in enrichment activities during afterschool, like Art & Cultural Diversity Activities, Civic Education, Mental Health Support & Activities, College Prep, and Capoeira; enrichment activities during virtual afterschool were primarily mental health support activities. Many of our efforts (during virtual) were also focused on tutorial services.
The demographics represented in afterschool were the following: Black American, Burmese, Colombian, Congolese, Ethiopian, Somalian, Sudanese, Tanzanian, and Ugandan.
Successes: While students were not able to participate in-person to receive afterschool assistance, many students have benefited from the one-on-one tutoring received through Zoom and the flexibility of logging in from a computer and not having to find transportation to and from the Community Center to participate in the program. Transportation is no longer a barrier to their academic growth.
Clarkston STEAM Plus Summer Camp:
Like many other summer programs, our summer camp looked completely different from previous camps. Out of caution and the safety of our staff and prospective campers, we provided summer camp virtually. This served as a great way for students to connect with former campers and classmates they had not seen since schools closed to in-person learning.
Campers participated in classes targeted at helping children review subjects in preparation for the Fall 2020 school semester. Other classes offered were the following: Leadership Skills, College Prep, Life Skills, DYI’s, Art, Cultural & Social Justice Discussions, Mental Health Support Activities. Students also received a bag of supplies to accompany the class and lessons being taught, as well as snacks and a lunch weekly. We enrolled a total of 40 students for camp. Campers represented the following countries: Burma, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and the United States of America.
Success: We avoided mass outbreaks of COVID-19. Learning from the decision of another camp in Georgia that closed down after one week of being open due to COVID cases, cautioned us to not follow their lead. We were able to ensure our campers’ safety by not hosting in-person camp during the Summer Surge.
Leaders of Tomorrow Virtual Program for High School Refugees
We are living in a time where social justice issues have taken center stage. Our youth are watching and listening to what’s happening around them. The CCC has always taught our youth participants, especially our high school students, the importance of their voice, civic engagement, service learning, and self-advocacy.
In partnership with the Institute for Educational Leadership, we began a virtual leadership training program for refugee high school students - Leaders of Tomorrow.
The program could only accept 10 students to participate in this intense 9 month training program. Students learned leadership skills, the importance of voting and civic responsibility/engagement, how to identify issues plaguing their communities and what methods can be used to find solutions.
Parent Advocate Training
One of the best ways for the CCC has found to contribute to the advancement of education equity advocacy work, throughout the state of Georgia, is by conducting Parent Advocate trainings.
Parent Advocate trainings is a new program introduced to our agency in 2020, through a partnership with the Leadership Conference Education Fund.
The purpose of Parent Advocate Training is to teach parents of underserved communities how to find their voice and advocate on behalf of their child and community’s educational needs at the local, state, and federal level. Our agency serves a large marginalized group who can benefit from this advocacy training.
Our aim was to provide four (4) Parent Advocate Training Cohorts over the course of a year. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic we were unable to complete our training as scheduled.
We held one in-person training and the remaining were held virtually. And the great news is, our work nor our message went unnoticed. As stated, we aimed to enroll 40 parents in the Parent Advocate Training cohorts, however by the end of July 2020, 172 parents had attended our Facebook live trainings and/or viewed our pre-recorded training videos.
Clarkston Community Center & Mercer University Free Health Fair
In partnership with Mercer University School of Pharmacy, we began 2020 by focusing on the health and wellness of our community by way of a free health fair in January & February. Attendees could receive the following services: blood pressure screening, blood glucose screening, blood cholesterol screening, healthy lifestyle education, mental & sexual health education, and smoking cessation counseling for free! Mercer also provided bilingual healthcare profession student candidates to assist with the provision of services. Many of the residents who attended were seniors and uninsured adults. The demand for these free health fairs was great, however they were suspended due to the pandemic.
Corporate & Non-profit Partners:
- Agnes Scott College
- Atlanta Metropolitan State College
- AmeriCorps Notre Dame Volunteers
- Atlanta Community Food Bank
- Center for Pan-Asian Community Services
- City of Clarkston
- Clarkston United Methodist Church
- Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies (CRSA)
- CORE COVID-19 Testing Lab
- DeKalb County Office of Human Services
- DeKalb County Office of Youth Services
- DeKalb County Community Development Department
- DeKalb County School District
- DeKalb County Public Library System
- Emory University School of Medicine
- Emory University SHINE Program
- Friends of Refugees
- Georgia State University
- Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network
- Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants & Refugees
- Hands On Atlanta
- Institute for Educational Leadership
- International Community School
- International Rescue Coalition
- Keller Williams Realty
- Leadership Conference Education Fund
- Mercer University College of Pharmacy
- Mercer University Department of Psychology
- Morehouse College
- New American Pathway
- Soccer In The Streets
2020 Foundation Donations:
- American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation
- Ames Family Foundation
- Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta/United Way - COVID-19 Emergency Response Food Security
- Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta/United Way COVID-19 Emergency Response Digital Learning
- Emory University
- Episcopal Church of the Epiphany
- Fidelity Charitable Foundation
- Institute for Educational Leadership
- John & Mary Franklin Foundation
- Leadership Conference Education Fund
- New York Life Foundation - AIM High
- Scott Hudgens Family Foundation
- City Of Clarkston
- DeKalb County Government
Corporate Donations & Sponsorships:
- Drew Fincher State Farm Agency
- Keller Williams Realty Atlanta