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May 27, 2021

SVSU students supported students and families during pandemic - Roberts Fellows provided materials, educational resources and information

Four members of SVSU’s Roberts Fellowship Program responded to the educational and emotional needs of the Saginaw community’s school-age children and their families by providing materials and resources to help them manage at-home learning and other challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“We began our project in fall of 2020 when many schools had just begun their fall semester of entirely virtual learning,” said Kennedy. “After talking to our community partner, Child and Family Services of Saginaw, we identified that this switch to online learning was difficult for not only students, but also parents who had to deal with the increased stress of balancing their children's at-home learning and their own busy lives.  

The participating students were:

  • Elizabeth Kennedy, Maybee, Mich., a recent graduate who majored in professional and technical writing 
  • Carly Luptowski, Pinconning, a recent graduate with a bachelor’s in sociology 
  • Nitish Nishtala, an economics and finance major from Pune, Maharashtra, India 
  • Lauren Richardson, Grand Ledge, a recent graduate with a major in biochemistry 

From November through April, the Fellows worked with a number of community partners to design and implement the project, with a goal of providing resources to help families manage at-home learning during the pandemic. The team hand-assembled 250 “COVID packs,” filling reusable tote bags with school supplies, art kits, children’s activity books, and parental emotional health resource packets. Materials and supplies were provided by the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum at SVSU, Child & Family Services of Saginaw and Walmart. The packs were distributed at Old Town Christian Outreach, Good Samaritan Rescue Mission, Underground Railroad and SVSU’s Cardinal Food Pantry.  

In addition to distributing the packs, the Roberts Fellows created a website ― https://freesaginawresources.weebly.com/ ― where parents and families can find information about free online and community resources to help them during the pandemic. Resources included links to online learning sites and listings of food distribution locations and Wi-Fi hotspots. 

“We decided that these packs would be most beneficial if they included activities and supplies to supplement children's at-home learning and also mental health resources for parents struggling to tackle these new challenges and the stress and anxiety that many suffered due to the pandemic,” said Kennedy. 

She added that the website “was more specifically aimed at parents who needed resources locally (or virtually) to help themselves and their school-age children function.  

“We wanted to provide online learning tutorials to assist with the increased challenge of having to learn from home as opposed to a classroom, and the food distribution list was created in the hopes of addressing food insecurity that may have worsened due to the financial stress caused by the pandemic.”  

Parents who responded to the Fellows’ post-project survey expressed appreciation for the packs and found the materials helpful. The project team intends for the website to remain active and accessible to the community.  

The Roberts Fellowship Program was established through a gift from Donna Roberts, who served as corporate secretary and assistant general counsel of Dow in the 1990s.