Where We Come Together: A Year in Review

It’s difficult to deny the challenge of the last few years. The covid-19 pandemic emerged in late 2019 and disrupted almost every facet of life and world business in early 2020. Those effects have lingered with us for years.

In that time, the Clarkston Community Center has refused to stand by. Determinedly and innovatively working through the disruptions of 2020 and 2021 the CCC has persevered throughout the pandemic, and in 2022 the CCC continued to stand tall. As the availability of covid vaccines expanded in 2022, the Clarkston Community Center recommitted to its mission of being a place for all, building community through education, recreation, and the arts. With the community eager to join together again in-person, the CCC has been eager to be a place for gathering.

In this newsletter, you’ll find a detailed account of that gathering, of the work that the Clarkston Community Center has done and continues to do, supporting neighbors throughout Clarkston and beyond. Though the challenges have been great, we have realized that there is only one way that we can all be greater: together.

Join us in the place where we come together.

The start of 2022 was a busy time for the CCC! From a continued need for our Clarkston Cares Food Pantry to a new semester for our Afterschool Quiet Zones 2.0 Program, the CCC sought out a multitude of ways to serve the community. Check out some of our work below!

In the months of January and February we served over 350 individuals from our Clarkston Cares Food Pantry, consisting of more than 80 households. The community rose to the occasion, however, as we served all neighbors who attended through our partnership with the Atlanta Community Food Bank and with smaller donations received through our mini food pantry. The Afterschool Quiet Zones 2.0 Program also continued in successful fashion, enrolling 87 students in early 2022 and providing students with access to community partnerships with such organizations as Project One80 (teambuilding work and socialization efforts), Mercer University Department of Clinical Psychology (mental health support), and Inspiredu (digital literacy), just to name a few! We also continued the important work of our ESL (English as a Second Language) and Civics courses, with a total of 71 students across all classes, supported in partnership with the DeKalb Public Library System. We were also very proud to continue our DeKalb Unknown series for Black History Month starting in February, highlighting the important and proud work of many of DeKalb’s Black residents through interviews with Amber Worthy, Jorel “JFly” Flynn, Dr. Brian Williams, and Dr. Joyce Morley. Check out past episodes of the show on our YouTube channel using the link below, and stay tuned for an all-new season of DeKalb Unknown coming in February 2023!

In collaboration with and as a part of the Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies (CRSA) the CCC attended a virtual watch party of the annual New Americans Celebration held at the Georgia State Capitol. CCC staff also participated by sending postcards to members of the state Education Committee to advocate for two separate bills promoting education equity for refugee households in Georgia!

Clarkston Community Center programming continued strong into the spring, building on the successes seen in January and February. Kicking off our Parent Advocate Program in partnership with DeKalb County School District and partnering with the International Rescue Committee, Goodwill Industries, and UGA Extension, the CCC continued to bolster education, job readiness, media literacy, and food security. Look and see!

With parents at times left struggling in their interactions with their local schools, the Clarkston Community Center sprang into action, partnering with the DeKalb County School District on a joint effort to give parents the tools in their repertoire to be strong advocates for their children. The difficulty of the last few years has not been isolated to learning loss in the classroom, as parents and students have struggled. CCC and DCSD banded together to create this unique 32-hour training program, equipping parents and caregivers to have a seat “at the table” to make their perceptions, needs, desires, and beliefs about their children’s education clear. Partnership with DeKalb County School District ran deep, beyond Parent Advocate Training, as we also partnered to support DCSD’s spring “Read Out” event with the district’s I.M.P.A.C.T. Hub!

Our Clarkston Cares Food Pantry also remained strong as need to healthful and plentiful food ran high with increasing inflation. Between March and May, the Clarkston Community Center served over 500 individual neighbors through Clarkston Cares, and nearly 100 households! Our efforts to fight hunger in our community didn’t stop there. Through partnership with UGA Extension of DeKalb County, we hosted a mobile farmer’s market every Friday in the spring and early summer, providing our community with fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as recipes and other information about healthy eating.

Work in the Community
The Clarkston Community Center enjoyed sponsoring the Media Launch Event: Recovery Resources for Refugees & Immigrant Entrepreneurs in Georgia, presented by the International Rescue Committee in Atlanta, Refugee Women’s Network, the Latin American Association and the Somali American Community Center. Designed to support minority-owned small businesses and to announce the availability of covid-19 recovery resources for refugee and immigrant entrepreneurs in Georgia, the event was a huge success! In addition, the CCC partnered with Goodwill of North Decatur to sponsor a job fair right in our community, connecting employers and employees in our own backyard and helping scores of our neighbors find the right job for them.

Health and wellness remained an absolute priority for the Clarkston Community Center as well, as we sponsored a covid-19 test giveaway in our very own parking lot in partnership with the City of Clarkston. These free test kits were made available to all community members and helped to identify and slow the spread of covid-19 right here in Clarkston. We took this message of well-being out into the community as well, participating as a panelist during the Clarkston Community Summit with Georgia State University’s Prevention Research Center, along with Drs. Helen O’Connor and Heval Kelli.

With the changing of the seasons, the weather started heating up in Georgia, and so did our work at the Clarkston Community Center! Concluding our Afterschool Program and moving forward with our STEAM-Plus Summer Camp, the CCC continued to promote exceptional educational attainment in Clarkston and beyond. That work beyond Clarkston took us all the way to Athens, Georgia for the ASYD Conference, where CCC staff continued to further their knowledge of best educational practices for our summer camp and afterschool programs. Have a look!

As our Afterschool Quiet Zones 2.0 Program finished with the 2021-22 school year, our STEAM-Plus Summer Camp ramped up quickly. With 87 total campers enrolled and 50 attending daily, the desire to retain educational information learned during the school year was apparent in our community. STEAM-Plus Summer Camp was able to provide those participating with a host of supplemental courses not available in a traditional school setting, including Fitness Classes, Financial Literacy Courses, Creative Writing and Screenwriting Classes, Social Media Strategy Instruction, as well as Project ARKS, a program teaching students how to identify sustainable energy sources for housing infrastructure, and SEED and Lead community gardens. Students also got to see inside the CCC’s new technology media space, including our new podcasting studio, and learn some of the basics of digital audio recording. So many wonderful community partners came together to make STEAM-Plus Summer Camp a reality, including:

• DeKalb County Office of Youth Services
• DeKalb County Board of Health
• Mercer University Department of Clinical Psychology
• Global Communities Internship Program
• DeKalb County WorkSource
• Notre Dame Mission Volunteers
• Soma Community Fitness
• DayDreamer Academy
• Travis Manion Foundation
• Amazon

And of course, our work wouldn’t have been possible without the tremendous help of our many camp counselors, both staff and volunteers. Through the Global Communities Internship Program, a partnership with five different area universities (Agnes Scott, Emory, Georgia Tech, Morehouse, and Atlanta Metropolitan State College) we received enormous support in our community building efforts throughout the Summer Camp Program.

Work in the Community
The Clarkston Community Center partnered with the Endocrine Society in Atlanta for EndoCares, a free health and wellness fair open to all community members. Such offerings at the fair included diabetes screenings and cooking demonstrations, nutrition and exercise counseling, and covid vaccinations. The fair was a huge success, boosting understandings of health and health infrastructure in DeKalb County, all while keeping our community safe and well!

The CCC continued to address the needs of Clarkston’s workforce by partnering with Accenture to sponsor another job fair at the Center during the summer. Launching new career paths with more than a dozen local companies in a host of different industries, the job fair was an ultimate success, with WSB-TV in Atlanta promoting the particular success of our Afghan refugee neighbors in finding work at the fair.

And our work of course wouldn’t be finished without a little celebration! The CCC was proud to join the City of Clarkston in celebrating the recently established Juneteenth holiday, as well as World Refugee Day, right here in downtown Clarkston.

Conferences and Convenings
The reach of the Clarkston Community Center can’t be contained! That’s why in September, CCC staff traveled to downtown Athens to attend the Georgia Afterschool & Youth Development (ASYD) Conference, joining with hundreds of other educators and afterschool specialists from around the state to learn about how best to continue to develop our out-of-school time programs and to meet the needs of the students in it. Such focuses included how best to recover from learning loss, how to tend to students’ mental and emotional health, and how to use the arts as a force for good throughout everyday life.

Drawing to the end of the year, the Clarkston Community Center’s work in the community refused to slow down. Between the continued success of our Parent Advocate Training, Clarkston Cares Food Pantry, and the start of a whole new school year for Quiet Zones 2.0, the CCC also participated in multiple covid-19 vaccine drives, served as a polling place during the 2022 midterm elections, and welcomed craft enthusiasts and neighbors of all kinds back to the center for the annual Craft & Vendor Fair. Check it out!

After the success of STEAM-Plus Summer Camp, the Clarkston Community Center got ready to welcome students back to the Center during the school year for another year of Quiet Zones 2.0. New and old faces came together to continue to strive for educational greatness, continuing in support with the Parent Advocate Training Program, online ESL Classes, and monthly Clarkston Cares Food Pantry distribution days. CCC staff also got the chance to meet with local teachers and administrators from the “Clarkston cluster” of middle and high schools, discussing educational policy and how best to work together to attain the greatest possible outcome for our students.

The CCC also participated in the Kaiser Health Vaccine Challenge in an effort to inform area families about pediatric covid-19 vaccination, flu vaccination, and other childhood immunizations and boost vaccine awareness among students between the ages of 5 and 11. Working together with local schools and school nurses, the CCC joined with the International Community School in November to incentivize vaccination for students and families in their area of DeKalb, also setting up a "slime making" station to keep families busy while waiting in line. Additionally, the CCC came together with CORE Response, the IRC in Atlanta, DCSD Student Health Services, DeKalb County Board of Health, and Idlewood Elementary School to host a vaccine clinic at the Community Center, incentivizing efforts to boost vaccination here too.

Work in the Community
With the 2022 midterm elections in full swing, the Clarkston Community Center stepped up to the plate and once again served as a polling place for the City of Clarkston, helping to shorten wait times and aid more Georgians in casting their vote. In conjunction with Women Watch Afrika and New American Pathways, the CCC also sponsored a voter registration drive in our parking lot on National Voter Registration Day in the lead up to the election. The CCC then again stood up for democracy when it served as a polling place for the US Senate runoff election in December, allowing all members of our community to make their voices heard.

The CCC also came together with veterans in our local community to thank them for all that they’ve done and to support their particular health and well-being. Together with the Veterans & Community Outreach Foundation (VCOF) the CCC hosted a Health Outreach Day as well as a Veterans Day celebration in November, and brought in a number of inspirational guest speakers to connect with our community, including actor Redge Green and US Senator Jon Ossoff.

The CCC closed out its events for the year with the return of the Holiday Craft & Vendor Fair, welcoming dozens of local vendors into the CCC for a celebration of the holidays, with a chance for our neighbors to get their holiday shopping done early! Attended by hundreds of neighbors right here in Clarkston, there was something for everyone, including food, drink, and desserts! Additional support for the fair came from community partner Ecstatic Dance Atlanta, who hosted an open house, open dance floor for all those interested. Ecstatic Dance Atlanta meets every Sunday at the Clarkston Community Center: stop by and give them a look!

Conferences & Convenings
Hard at work up until the very end, CCC staff traveled to Washington, DC for the LCEF Education Equity State Partner Convening in October, a gathering of state partners throughout the country working to close the gap in education disparities in all schools. Located at the offices of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the CCC staff who attended learned much and were more than happy to bring their experience back to Georgia. The CCC also hosted the annual gathering of the Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies (CRSA) where those in attendance worked with Dr. Kyle Lambelet on collective strategies to build community power.


New Staff
The Clarkston Community Center welcomed some new faces to work in 2022, including Ms. Shannon Fikes, Youth OST Coordinator, Mr. Noah Lorey, Communications and Outreach Coordinator, and Ms. Fauzia Ibrahim, Youth Leadership and Technology Facilitator. Read their bios and learn more about our entire team using the link below. Welcome!

A Taste of What’s Next…
2022 has given way to 2023, and that means the Clarkston Community Center’s work is only going to grow in the coming months. None of what we do here would be possible without your continued and generous support. If you’re interested in making a donation or volunteering your time with the Clarkston Community Center, we have myriad options for you to do so using the links below or by getting in touch with us on our website, clarkstoncommunitycenter.org.

It is only with you that we can all make this the place where the world comes together.