Thanksgiving 2020: A Letter from the Executive Director

Dear friends,

Happy Thanksgiving! As we approach the holidays, I have been reflecting on this thought: 2020 was not the year in which we got everything we wanted. But it is a year to appreciate everything we have.

I am so appreciative of all of you, and of the entire CYD family – our students, staff, Board members, funders, and partners. And I am very proud of all we’ve accomplished during this time, and of what we continue to do.

CYD video conference

We reach the end of 2020 after 10 months of addressing the issues that COVID has created for our schools and the young people we serve. The news of the advances in vaccines is encouraging, but re-closing of schools last week is a reminder that this work will continue for a number of months to come.

Transforming our work from in-person to remote.
Our staff has been incredible – using remote platforms to design innovative college and career readiness services. They’ve worked tirelessly during the pandemic to assist students and families. They’ve created engaging online workshops and reached out individually to students and families every day – at times up to 10 pm at night – to assist students with completing high school and developing a plan for postsecondary success. It has been a time of great challenge, creativity, loss, grief, opportunity – and yes, success. 84% of our graduating students had clear plans for life after high school, from enrolling in college to taking part in training programs and strategies for employment. Our schools held remote graduations and did their best to celebrate the success and resilience of our students during this unprecedented time.

Providing emergency resources for students and families.
We launched a COVID resource website and updated it daily as resources and information came in.

Keeping CYD operations alive and well.
Our development team reached out for emergency funding, and we secured grants to stabilize us during this time. A priority has been to retain all of our staff so that we are able to continue to serve all of our young people. We have worked hard with our government partners to develop systems that are secure for data and information collection.

We’re addressing a number of new challenges in this school year.
We are advocating with other nonprofits across the city to support after-school funding through the City’s Learning to Work Programs that provide money for internships, career readiness, and support services to thousands of our most vulnerable high school students. We are collaborating with our school partners to increase attendance by reaching out to students daily. We are seeking ways to provide technology support to families that cannot afford the cost of data plans, hotspots, and WiFi service that are essential for learning in the new remote model. We are hearing from graduates who are overwhelmed because their plans are falling apart. Older youth and their families are still suffering with layoffs and furloughs, and they are in need of social support services as well as employment. CYD is evolving to meet these challenges and will be seeking additional support to expand our work and deepen it over the next months.

At CYD we have always known that educational and racial equity are tied together. The Black Lives Matter movement represents a challenge and an opportunity. Our staff supported many of our young people and their families who were marching for justice this summer, and we created forums for them to process what they were going through and to express themselves. In response, we are developing civic engagement models to help students develop the skills to work positively to address the issues of racial equity directly, and also to learn how to be part of the democracy they live in, as a new generation of voters, advocates, and leaders.

We have a large number of challenges in front of us. But I feel that together we can rise up and turn those challenges into opportunities for the young people we serve. We could not do it without you. I appreciate you for your support throughout this pandemic year and beyond. Thank you!

Michael Roberts
Executive Director, Comprehensive Youth Development

Thank You.