The Believe and Achieve Foundation (Exton, PA) is committed to helping the youth of Chester County thrive,specifically through difficultsituations. The non-profit was established in 2010 and is dedicated to providing basic needsto families along with programming geared towards establishing a growth mindset and facilitating experiential learning opportunities
Each summerthe foundation supports Summer Enrichment Programming. Traditionally, the format is experiential learning based, providing children with unique opportunitiesto engage in community-centered engagement. The success of these programs, driven by new experiences, purposeful community integration and curriculum designed to support academic growth, along with physical and mental health have become the cornerstone of the foundation’sstrategic plan. A 2019 grant from the Philadelphia Phillies Charities ensured that Believe and Achieve would be able to grow,securing sitesin both West Chester and Coatesville forthe summer of 2020. The onset of COVID-19 rapidly put these plansin jeopardy. In April it became very clearthat in-person enrichment would be a long-shot. Believe and Achieve’s Executive Director, Kate Magee and Director of Development and Programming, Kara Todd immediately set out to secure alternative optionsto ensure the foundation would be able to continue effectively serving families. A Program Leadership team was assembled consisting of educational professionals with specific interests and commitment towards community service. The team consisted of Kara Todd, Susan Flynn, Rose Manion, Anne Guidotti and Shaniece Stonewall. They identified specific needs of families, along with the technological and educational gaps and creatively problem solved meansto address each issue. The Virtual Summer Enrichment Program was developed and a plan to execute wasset for 4 weeksin July. Strategic partnerships were made with West Chester School District, Padres Latinos and The Chester County Intermediate Unit to offerthe free need-based program. The roster quickly filled to forty participating children.
The virtual program kicked off on Monday, July 6th. All children were offered free access to technology based on a grant from the Community Clothes Charity along with a partnership with West Chester University’s Technology Resource Department. Each day the children were offered 2 hours and 15 minutes of online engagement led by three PA certified teachers. The curriculum was planned to emphasize positivity, perseverance and growth,skillsthat in current times are critically useful to us all. The students were also offered a 30 minute “lunch bunch” opportunity to allow the studentsto socially engage in a more relaxed setting. Each week brought a number of community gueststo the program. Guestsincluded high schoolstudents, college athletes, Villanova University nursing students, district teachers & administrators and even local yoga instructors, offering some virtual mindfulness!
Each Monday the families had 5 breakfasts and 5 lunches delivered to them for all children living in the home. This was over 2000 mealsthat were provided overthe 4 week period. A new community partnership with the Chester County Intermediate Unit’s Head Start Program helped to make this possible. Additional nutritionalsupport was provided each Wednesday afternoon. Families were able to pick up several boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables- courtesy of the Chester County Food Bank. They also picked up program supplies & summerfun kits at a designated spot in either West Chester or Coatesville. These kitsincluded sporting equipment, artsupplies, new bathing suits & flip flops, sunscreen, new reading books, journals and so much more. These kits were provided with help from Partnersin Outreach & The Sow Good Now Foundation along with a grant from The 1830 Family Foundation. The percentage of children thatsuccessfully logged into the program, along with the percentage of families accessing the community service support was outstanding. The children were enthusiastically engaged and gained extensive hands-on experience with Zoom & Google Classroom,skills which will be deeply valuable during the upcoming months of “virtual classrooms.”
According to Executive Director, Kate Magee “2020 has brought extreme uncertainty to the non-profit world. Cancelled programming, postponed fundraising events and changesin grant writing opportunities have paralyzed many organizations. It isso often that non-profitsfind ourselves competing forfunding,support & volunteers.” Yet through this uncertainty the Believe and Achieve Foundation hasfound a way to bring a number of community groups and educational professionalstogetherto effectively serve our children and theirfamilies- bringing consistency, hope and good will during times of painful difficulty.