In the midst of widespread flooding due to Harvey, there were beaming lights of hope as members of the YES Prep family– many of whom have been personally impacted by the storm– went above and beyond to help each other, neighbors, our students, and the city. Through generous donations from staff, families, and the community, YES Prep was able to raise nearly $4 million in its Family Flood Relief Fund to support students, alumni, and staff members most impacted by the storm.
At YES Prep Northside, over 35 families suffered significant damage or loss due to the storm. “We had families living in houses that had no ceilings and walls or sleeping on concrete floors,” said Sh’Nay Ballard, Student Support Counselor at YES Prep Northside. In the aftermath of the storm, campus staff surveyed families about the damage, visited homes, and reached out directly to families who were hesitant to come forward.
YES Prep developed an objective mechanism to ensure that families that lost the most are eligible to receive the most aid and then used part of the Family Flood Relief Fund for immediate needs– offering families gift cards and unlimited access to non-monetary donations such as food, clothing, uniforms, and educational materials. YES Prep spent roughly 15% of the total fund for these types of needs; as the holidays approach, basic needs assistance, such as grocery store gift cards, will again be available. Additionally, all Directors of College Counseling were given pre-paid Visa cards so that any college application fees, SAT fees, or anything else related to college access could be paid for—to make sure that no junior or senior’s future plans are altered by Harvey. The Student Support Team at each campus also ordered and distributed nearly $50,000 worth of YES Prep uniforms, so that kids could restore a sense of normalcy in their school day as quickly as possible.
Much of the fund was reserved for long-term needs that would emerge slowly as temporary living situations ended, health issues arose, or wages were lost. Families who qualify for long-term assistance are now receiving pre-paid, fee-waived Visa gift cards for their most essential needs. In addition, thanks to the leadership of Chandra Livingston from the Finance team, YES Prep has negotiated a way to directly purchase furnishings; linens; and other household essentials for families—direct delivered to homes but paid centrally by YES Prep.
“I did a home visit and saw that the kids had lost their mattresses in the flood, so we were able to have two new mattresses delivered to their home,” said Ballard. Ballard also shared the story of a Northside student living with his grandmother in a home that suffered significant damage. YES Prep was able to replace essential medical equipment and provide rental assistance while their home is being repaired.
“We’re really working to ensure that families’ needs are met. [The grandmother] is so excited to be in a rental home and have some stability,” said Ballard.