North side community center plays vital role for students eLearning and their families


A student listens to a live lecture on a laptop computer at home during a remote learning class in Princeton, Illinois, U.S., on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. Illinois reported 1,337 new coronavirus cases Wednesday as the state’s positivity rate dropped below 4% for the first time in weeks. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Public Schools are still on schedule to return to in-person learning beginning on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the work of the Martin Luther King Community Center continues as they try to meet the needs of eLearning and parents who need support.

“I mean wow, from the start we jumped right out,” Amber Brookins, After School Coordinator at the MLK Community Center, said. “One day you get the call to say school’s shut down. The next day we’re pushing out food, we’re still pushing out literacy materials.”

After the schools closed, the MLK Community Center quickly coordinated a plan to offer all day eLearning support for students, primarily attending James Whitcomb Riley School 43, free of charge.

“The relationship that we’ve already established that made it easy to transition for us to go directly into eLearning,” Jeff Cottrell, Family Engagement Director at the MLK Community Center, said.

The center is right down the street from school 43.

“If their computer’s not working or the charger’s not working, we’re able to immediately contact the school and go directly to the school to get those things that they needed,” Cottrell explained.

Three coaches also help students’ families in a variety of ways including help with transportation, financial literacy, food and cleaning supplies when households caught the virus. Cottrell also said the coaches connect students and families to free mental health support.

“Because of the pandemic, people are frustrated, they’re angry,” Cottrell said. “So, through our coaches, we have two mental health people that we can refer either the kids, their parents to them so they can get some additional help. “

As Hoosiers battle the pandemic, Indy residents also endure a public safety crisis. Earlier this summer, the center began the Junior Community Builder Task Force which helps members engage with children, teens, and adults in their neighborhood with a goal of preventing further violence. Anthony McCloud is a member of this team.

“I just don’t want to see another victim of that statistic knowing that I could have made a better tomorrow for that person’s life,” McCloud said.

Karayjus Perry, another member, said the group is focused on “promoting a non-violent way of living in the neighborhood and the city.”

“That’s the main thing about nonviolence is trying to understand what you don’t so you can understand somebody better,” Perry said.

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