How the FLY Family is coming together in this crisis

“Even though there’s despair out there, we are able to go on and serve. Your support shows your love for FLY and our youth. It shows that we are all in this together,” FLY staff member Joshua Orcine told us. If you’re inspired by what you read here, please support FLY financially so we can continue our virtual programming for youth and their families. 

FLY youth and their families were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of our kids are youth of color, and confronting racism and systemic inequities is nothing new to them. We’ve seen this fact amplified during the pandemic, which has significantly impacted individuals and communities of color, and revealed how difficult it can be for our kids and their families to access adequate health care, housing, employment, educational resources, and more.

Our staff has worked hard to support youth with basic needs in addition to their goals for learning and growing through FLY’s programs. They say they are especially thankful to have FLY at a time when other community agencies have had to reduce or stop their services. This video gives you a brief glimpse of how our staff and youth are working and supporting each other – a few moments of inspiration and hope. 

Watch FLY’s COVID-19 Check-In Episode #1 

Watch FLY’s COVID-19 Check-In Episode #2

Watch FLY’s COVID-19 Check-In Episode #3

Sending letters and care packages to youth

Youth who were incarcerated in juvenile halls, ranches, and camps did not receive visits or services for weeks after the shelter-in-place orders were issued. We received the names of all kids in locked facilities in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties so that our supporters and other FLY youth could send them letters of hope and inspiration. We also sent them care packages. A FLY staff member made a short video about the effort:

Watch FLY’s Letter Video

Here are some of their responses from our kids:

“It felt good to know that other people are thinking about us. Thanks for also caring about us. I hope you guys are also staying safe and clean. We will get through this.”

“I appreciate that all of you over there have us on your mind.”

“Thank you for looking out for us and remembering that we are in a tough situation. I cared that people still think about us while we are locked up.”

UPDATE: Our staff continues to send care packages with food and other treats, and are now able to connect with many of the youth each week through virtual FLY Law Program classes.

Reentry team care packages

With the help of Target and Amazon, the Reentry team was able to put together care packages for our youth filled with goodies and love and deliver them directly to their homes. It was amazing seeing our young people face-to-face (while keeping a social distance) and enjoy their smiles. Some of the youth posted on social media to show off their boxes, and others sent thank you texts throughout the day expressing their gratitude. It’s been a tough few months not being able to have the “normal” hands-on FLY Case Management style, but this was a great reminder that COVID-19 will not hold us back from showing our youth that they are essential! Please enjoy this video collage of some of the youth:

Watch the video collage

FLY programs add new elements

Keeping our youth engaged with FLY is extremely important is this time of physical distancing and isolation. The photo at the top of the page shows our volunteer mentor Monica meeting with her youth through Zoom. Our Court Appointed Friend and Advocate Mentor Program staff created an online FLY bingo game for youth and their mentors. Leadership Program staff have hosted virtual game nights and are doing virtual work-outs with their youth.

Teaching the law virtually

FLY staff have successfully delivered several law classes virtually, and their “classrooms” have grown as more youth receive Chromebooks and other technology they need for learning. “It’s been great to see more faces in the classes,” said Fernanda Fonseca, FLY’s Law Program Coordinator for Alameda County. Fernanda added that at one of their schools, kids will receive elective credit for the FLY class, which helps them advance toward graduation.

Classes also began in Juvenile Hall in two of our counties. Staff reported that the youth were very engaged and the classes were even more interactive than normal. One of the classes will have a special guest speaker brought by FLY, who will share a video and speak about his own journey from Juvenile Hall to being a successful entrepreneur.

Keeping education on track

Case managers continue to support youth with their educational goals such as graduating from high school, getting a GED, and applying for college. One of our Career Pathways Navigators created a centralized resource for information on the remote learning and graduation ceremony plans for specific school districts, and changes to college admissions procedures for Fall 2020. For our youth without access to laptops, Wi-Fi, or other resources needed for school, FLY has worked with corporate partners and other agencies to supply equipment so they can continue learning.

Engaging our awesome volunteers

Our Court Appointed Friend and Advocate Mentor Program recently held a virtual training for 18 new volunteers. At one point they were joined on the phone conference for a Q&A with four youth who participated in the program. The program staff have also created an online classroom to continue with the regular quarterly training for our mentors. (Read the full story.)

FLY is still recruiting mentors for online interviews. We can use more caring adults to connect with and inspire our kids!

 Apply to Volunteer

Some of our Law Program staff are checking in with volunteers through virtual coffee sessions. Some volunteer law facilitators have been able to touch base with youth in our Spring classes via phone calls. And one Law Program staff group decided not to cancel their planned training for volunteer facilitators. Instead they designed and successfully delivered the training online.

Supporting youth inside locked facilities and after their release

In Santa Clara County, youth still detained in long-term lock-up (six months or more) received access to Chromebooks and are using them to hold one-on-one counseling and planning sessions with our staff. We are also ready to offer our law-related education courses virtually for kids in that facility and in juvenile hall.  Through our Reentry Program, we’re using video conferencing to conduct intake assessments and develop service plans for youth who are being released from custody and must quickly adjust to life under the shelter-in-place orders.

Supporting families through #GiveTogetherNow

Through our relationship with Stand Together Foundation. we were connected with an amazing rapid-response effort to provide a one-time cash payment of $500 to 150 households who have been financially impacted by COVID-19. One of our youth made a short video to thank FLY for the financial help and the other support we provided.

 Watch Youth Thank You Video

Support our Youth as We Stay Home & Stay FLY

As the pandemic continues, we need more funds to provide our essential services in new and innovative ways. Please give today to help kids stay safe and keep working on their positive life goals.