The past few weeks have been mired in uncertainty, confusion, and even fear. The world looks very different than it did just eight weeks ago and we are still figuring out what the new normal will look like moving forward. And yet, in the midst of all of the unknowns, we have also seen remarkable strength, adaptability, and resiliency on the part of students, educators, and families in our community.
No one could have predicted the unprecedented challenges that would be faced by students and teachers in Arizona. Overnight, classrooms had to move from the school building to the kitchen table. Teachers had to figure out how to continue teaching from a distance. Students had to leave their campuses. And, parents had to figure out how to support their student’s learning while also managing other professional and family challenges related to the pandemic.
We have seen numerous examples of Arizona students, educators, and families who have embraced the challenges before them. They have been flexible. They have been innovative. They have been resilient. They have stayed the course and been committed to doing what is necessary to ensure students can continue learning and succeeding academically.
However, we also know that this unexpected situation has created a steep learning curve about how to address non-traditional learning needs. There are many students who are facing challenges in this environment. Whether it’s due to lack of resources, lack of family support, lack of access to technology, or health and emotional issues – some students need additional assistance. We need our elected leaders to understand this reality and ensure there are resources and accommodations made for underserved students. While we are always aware of equity issues in education, this pandemic has exacerbated those issues and we are at risk of creating wider and more devastating gaps in educational equity.
In an effort to help address some of these issues at the postsecondary level, Helios and College Success Arizona recently launched the Arizona Postsecondary Student Resiliency Fund which provides resources to support first generation, low-income, and underserved students as they persist and succeed in completing their degree, despite the challenges and uncertainty they are currently facing.
It is critical, now more than ever, that we help students continue on their path toward postsecondary success. Not only will it help secure a bright future for them, but it will help ensure Arizona’s economic stability in the future. It is imperative that there are equitable opportunities for educational success available to all students, regardless of background or zip code. Arizona’s future economy depends on increasing the number of students who pursue and complete a postsecondary degree. Even in the midst of this pandemic, we can’t lose sight of this goal.
I’m not sure what the future holds for our students and our education system. But, I do know that we must remain passionately committed to ensuring that all students have the opportunity to succeed. And, we must recognize and support our educators as they try to meet the varying needs of students and create equitable opportunities for all.
— Paul J. Luna, is president and CEO of Helios Education Foundation.