How the Pandemic Has Impacted First-Gen Students

In this video, Principal Osei Owusu-Afriyie of Frederick Douglass Academy II secondary school in Harlem, NY speaks with iMentor program manager Jackie Rodriguez about the impact of COVID-19 and the resulting NYC school shutdown on students, and what gives him hope during this time. iMentor has launched the iMentor Collective Response Fund to support students like those at Frederick Douglass Academy II during this period of transition to offer the support need to ensure these students succeed.

On March 13th, the NYC school system officially shut down due to COVID-19 and thousands of students and staff members found their resilience tested as they pursued remote-learning. However, the shutdown also amplified inequities for a significant number of Frederick Douglass Academy students, most of whom came from under resourced areas in the Bronx and Harlem that were the greatest hit by the pandemic within NYC.

For many of these students, according to Principal Afriyie, their reality included caring for sick loved ones, their parents losing their jobs, and no longer having consistent physical access to their academic and social communities. Among iMentor students, 38 percent say COVID-19 has had a negative impact on their mental health.

Nevertheless, the teachers and staff at Frederick Douglass Academy was able to virtually to rebuild the school community and strategize ways to successfully navigate a new form of schooling while supporting the mental health of their students. This included hosting town hall meetings for students to share their feelings and making sure at least one teacher was able to check in weekly with each student’s family to offer any needed support.

Despite the pandemic, the school achieved its highest graduation rate this June and had more than 90 percent of students connecting online every day. Principal Afriyie remains hopeful and is continually motivated by his students; even in the midst of such challenge, they're not giving up on their dreams.

iMentor students deserve the best supports possible to navigate this moment. Learn about iMentor's investments in four areas to meet the unique challenges of the year ahead.