The Digital Divide, COVID-19, and a Holistic Approach for Adult Learners in St. Louis

USI takes a well-rounded approach to help adult learners in St. Louis’ Near North Side pursue their education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adult learners in St. Louis’s Near North Side neighborhood have been working with USI and the St. Louis Public School Adult Literacy program to receive their high school diploma, GED, or other secondary training since mid-2019. Amidst the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, understandably, individuals’ priorities around education intensified and shifted.

Jumping Over the Digital Divide

USI St. Louis’ Education Specialist Denesha Ogunsegha first noticed a digital divide not only for youth scholars but also adult learners. Previously, students of all ages used the computer lab to work and learn. But the lab was restricted due to COVID-19, so students needed other forms of support.

Luckily, USI was able to collaborate to provide laptops for students in our Near North Side community.

However, just having access to technology was not the best way to serve our adult learners in the community. Families were struggling with getting other needs met, meaning their education goals went to the back burner.

Looking Closer at Resident Needs

Once Denesha noticed that families’ interest in education programs began to fade, she shifted her focus and looked back at the data. 45% of our neighbors in the Near North Side were facing the risk of eviction. A holistic approach to providing for families’ needs was imperative when ensuring stability and opportunities to thrive.

“The residents are the ones that are driving the change, so how can we ensure we are continually meeting their needs and keeping them engaged? This is what we’ve been focusing on during the COVID-19 pandemic.” – Denesha Ogunsegha, Interim Associate Project Manager

USI Near North Side finalized the agreement between USI and the Board of Education to help bring a more sustainable educational path to the adult learners in the community. USI offered these services right away to provide stronger outcomes for families in St. Louis

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