Feature Story

Stories of Hope and Surprising Success in the Middle of a Crisis

As New Jersey began to shelter in place due to the pandemic, the staff at Middle Earth were busier than ever! They creatively brainstormed and implemented solutions to switch all of our programming from in person to online. They personally called every student. They worried over how youth would react to the changes and stress. But, in the midst of chaos, some bright lights shown through. Hear from our staff, in their own words:

Zoom meeting with youthVanessa (youth) and Irene Candelaria (staff) have been working together since the Youth College Readiness Program began to operate in Bernards High School when Vanessa was a senior last year. Through the program, she successfully applied to Montclair University and began attending there in Fall, 2019. But, their mentorship did not end at graduation. Vanessa immediately signed up for Middle Earth’s Visions Plus, a program designed for adolescents who need support for employment readiness and independent living. As the pandemic hit, Vanessa’s life looked very different as colleges across the country closed down and moved to online classes.

“Just like most students, Vanessa has difficulties adapting to the new normalcy of her studies. Weekly, we set Zoom meetings to ensure that her well-being is still one of her priorities. When I ask her how she feels each week after we meet, she responds with, ‘It is a great feeling to be able to talk to someone who genuinely wants to be there regularly during this pandemic.’” - Irene Candelaria

“Since the shutdown took effect, I was able to conduct mock interviews with 5 students via Zoom just in the first week, and checked in with other students to help them make progress on employment certifications and other benchmarks. In the college readiness program, I was inspired by the fact that many of our seniors remained just as committed to attending college in the fall, and I assisted them with reaching out to admissions departments, completing scholarship applications, and making decisions about where they would like to attend.” - Jack Teters

“Suddenly running an afterschool program from home was a drastic change, but with Middle Earth’s help, the transition was surprisingly smooth. The afterschool students I am able to interface with on a daily basis look forward to the program. They are excited for the interaction with me and their friends. We provide support to these kids in a very confusing time in their lives.” —Laura Cavanagh

This is the life change that YOU enable through your support of Middle Earth! Partnering with us to provide online programming during this difficult time will ensure our community’s next generation will continue to envision a bright future and learn how to thrive after the pandemic.