The COVID-19 pandemic is becoming a watershed event that is causing us to rethink how we interact and relate to others, going forward.

President Donald Trump recently announced new coronavirus guidelines Monday, recommending a list on things to avoid and do, to include closing schools. Closing school, though necessary, imposes tremendous hardships on working families, who are working multiple jobs just to the keep the family afloat. School closure adds additional burdens to include potential child-care responsibilities, along with helping and monitoring homework, to an already resource-deficit family.

Small youth-serving community-based organizations such as the 100 Black Men of America, Top Teens of America, African American Greek organizations and others with the primary mission to uplift boys and girls of color from challenging environments have been a steady and valuable resources to help nurture our youth through mentoring, counseling, tutoring and other after-school assistance to these youths. The challenge is, like the school system, face-to-face has been the preferred and most effective method of delivering services to our most challenged students. When schools are closed because of COVID-19, then many of these organization will also be compelled to close. Total closure is not an option. As a state that already ranks near the bottom of most academic statistics, the discussions that should be held are how can we in the face of such turmoil propel our students higher instead of allowing them to fall farther behind.

During turbulent times and events — whether it was during the aftermath of 911, Hurricane Katrina or the Great Flood of 2016 — we, the citizens from all social and economic descriptions came together, developed and implemented new and innovative approaches to ensure healing and the future of our beloved Baton Rouge. Proverbs 16:27, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop; idle lips are his mouthpiece,” reminds us that we need to stay engaged with our youth, providing as many of the services that we currently are providing, because no one knows how long this isolation/lockdown will last, six weeks or beyond. We cannot afford to take time off.

We can and must do it, again. The following steps are being recommended as catalyst to help youth-serving organizations to collective formulate plans to help sustain their organizations as vessels to help families during this ordeal.

• Stay committed to the work, even as resources are strained. Look for additional partners and resources that help during these times.

• Be willing to move beyond your comfort zone by incorporating technologies and other innovations into your mentoring processes that will help replace/minimize face-to face interactions.

• Maintaining a defined frequency (weekly, biweekly, daily) of contacts with parents and youth is absolutely essential. Build expectations and habits based on repetitive actions that are understood, evaluated and rewarded.

• Set up ongoing evaluation methods processes and be willing to make adjustments when things don’t work

• Continue to engage the entire family into the process of mentoring, while at the same time work on developing and strengthening your referral system so as to be able help these families when they encounter financial hardships, medical and other issues beyond your mission and financial capacity.

Adell Brown Jr. is retired vice chancellor for research at the Southern University Agricultural Center, director of 100 Black Men Collective Healing project and 2019-2020 Encore Public Voices Fellow.

Our Views: The way forward is familiar, coming together as we've done before

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