Brilliant Detroit aims to bridge the divide in literacy and equity furthered by COVID-19

During this school year, most conversations have been about whether schools will be open, not how we plan to support families. As an organization, we at Brilliant Detroit are fortunate enough to be at the center of these types of issues, and we serve a lot of neighborhoods in the city of Detroit. We have been very involved with the concerns of our families, which change from week to week. Many of our families have been feeling a sense of isolation and unsure how to help their kids, so we have been trying to focus on our support goals and double down on our efforts.


With the virtual school year, we focus on getting children time that’s not on a computer screen for creativity and imagination. At Brilliant Detroit, we have been focusing on our tutoring options to offer these outlets for families. The majority of families in the Detroit area have a preference to do school at home, whether it be homeschooling or virtual school. Many parents have been concerned with setting schedules and parameters without getting overloaded and how to build literacy. With that in mind, we have created our virtual programming that supports learning and mental health.


We listen to families’ voices when adjusting our programming to make sure we’re meeting their needs. Many of them ask for advice on how to handle the situation if they should send their kids to tutoring, and how many sessions to ask for, how do they teach their kids at home while working. Some parents feel very unsafe in sending their kids to school, and we are trying to offer them security through our organization. We want to help kids have safety and the best learning environment possible, and we are supporting families through either choice of school at home or in person.


One of our major concerns this school year is literacy and equity. A lot of this is an equity issue, and we need to do something about it. There are a few major factors involved between technology access, parental availability, and more, and we need to figure out the right supports for each case. Despite the situation, we want to ensure kids remain on track with their literacy levels and education, which is what we had in mind while creating our tutoring program.


Our tutoring sessions offer one-on-one meetings with our tutors, which allows kids to get personal attention. Tutoring is one way to help parents set a schedule, and through it, they will also receive ongoing mental health support. We have been closely monitoring our facilities’ health and safety between our three locations, and we have been doing a lot of outdoor programming. We have also been offering learning kits for families to take home. We have set up a relationship-based system, and we have everything families might need throughout this school year.


The relationship comes before the curriculum, and the relational piece is needed in teaching. We hear from many parents, “my child doesn’t want to do their curriculum, but they do want to see their tutor.” We all have to step into this role with this new situation and see what’s working, and we know the relationship piece as most important in helping students succeed. Literacy is a poverty buster, and we need to maintain that promise of education.


We need to do things not like they have been done before to help the people who have these needs. We care fiercely. We listen, act, and do the work to help these families. I always say I bring my head, heart, and shoulders into this job because it’s on us.

Cindy Eggleton is the Executive Director of Brilliant Detroit. This entry is part of our Nonprofit Journal Project, an initiative inviting nonprofit leaders across Metro Detroit to contribute their thoughts via journal entries on how COVID-19 is impacting the nonprofit sector--and how they are innovating. This series is made possible with the generous support of our partners, the Michigan Nonprofit Association and Co.ACT.

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