kids on computers

Where Can Kids Learn Spanish, French, and Swahili?

Kids can learn Spanish, French, and Swahili at Mercy Housing’s Appian Way community, thanks to our partner, National Real Estate Practice of EPIC Insurance Brokers and Consultants. Before coronavirus, EPIC’s Real Estate Forum collectively donated 120 new Chromebooks with software to Mercy Housing’s Resident Services across 10 communities in Seattle.

So that everyone at these communities got the opportunity to use a Chromebook, Homework Clubs were renting out the devices through Resident Services Coordinators. Residents could get help accessing school assignments, accounts, grades, and learning games like Duolingo — a fun and educational language app. Adult residents could also use the devices to file their taxes and utilize character strength assessments.

EPIC office team with Chromebooks
EPIC’s team with the Chromebooks.

A Changing World

Today, with shelter-in-place and social distancing measures being observed, our resourceful staff are using the Chromebooks to offer remote tutoring via Microsoft Teams for kids who haven’t had access to tutoring enrollment applications for the Seattle Preschool Program (while Homework Clubs are on hold). Plus, residents are still getting support to file their taxes.

Before the pandemic had closed traditional classroom settings, Mercy Housing had been exploring opportunities to strengthen families’ digital access. Many children from low-income families face barriers to academic success, including lack of enrich­ment activities and up-to-date technology resources at home. Coronavirus has worsened the digital divide and Mercy Housing has gone into overdrive to get kids’ families better internet and more devices to continue their learning. Now, Resident Services are coordinating with schools on assessing residents’ technology and Wi-Fi access. Stay tuned to our blog to hear more about how donations are making a huge impact right now.

Mercy Magnuson Place received some of these Chromebooks too, and many immigrants and refugees with low incomes call this community home. They especially stand to benefit from improved access to technology to overcome language barriers and gain assistance navigating complex school registration systems in a new country. All these Chromebooks and software are entirely free for resident students to use.

An EPIC Start

The costs of Chrome Device Management Software were covered by the initial fundraising efforts, allowing administrators the ability to create a device profile and pre-install apps in a Cloud, which automatically downloads onto each Chromebook when the user logs on.

Mercy Housing operated 10 after-school programs (prior to coronavirus) in communities throughout the Northwest region and will add two additional programs this year. Over 500 kids participated in these enrichment activities last year. An impressive 90% of students report that Mercy Housing after-school programs help them feel more confident about their school performance.

COVID-19 is changing everything. Seniors and families need your help

Supporting and growing residents’ access to computers and the internet comes at a critical time. According to The Federal Communications Commission, 21 million Americans don’t have high-speed internet. Many advocates and supporters of equitable education and internet access say that even that number is modest. Broadband Now claims that the number of people in our country without access to high-speed internet could be even double that, around 42 million. For Mercy Housing, either number is too high, especially for families. These days, internet and computer access are essential for students’ success, and with shelter-in-place and social distancing protocols being practiced at all our properties, digital access is a must.

While many schools offer in­creased access to technology, this tends to be in wealthier, resource-rich schools where active PTA groups raise significant funds. For many years, Mercy Housing has focused on closing the opportunity gap for children and families living with low incomes through programming that engages youth after school to foster emotional wellbeing, physical activity, and academic achievement.

There’s No Better Time Than Now

When students fall behind in school, it can affect them for the rest of their lives. It can affect access to opportunity and that’s what Mercy Housing and EPIC’s partnership is about, helping young people gain access. Ensuring that residents have access to the same opportunities that all of us need to thrive is paramount to our mission. And academic excellence is vital. Mercy Housing’s Resident Services will continue to offer a rich variety of educational opportunities to families because our commitment to communities is always for the long term.

Want to help Mercy Housing residents get through the coronavirus crisis? There’s a fund that directly supports families in need.

These Chromebooks and software aren’t EPIC’s first time partnering with us either. EPIC has been offering scholarships for two years and funded annual projects like this for five years through their forum.