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K-12 Education

COVID-19 Response Fund Partner Profile: The Yunion

This post originally appeared on the United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s (UWSEM) blog. Click here to read the original post.

United Way for Southeastern Michigan and its partners are committed to ensuring that our region’s most vulnerable families have the support they need to weather the short- and long-term impacts of the coronavirus outbreak. The COVID-19 Community Response Fund allows us to rapidly deploy funds to organizations that are working tirelessly to help individuals and families access food, shelter, health care and other critical resources.

As of April 1, a total of more than $2.65 million has been awarded to more than 80 organizations.

Over the next few months, UWSEM will share stories of how together, they’re helping families in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties weather this crisis. Visit their blog to learn more about how they’re responding.

During this time of coronavirus (COVID-19), much focus has been rightfully placed on Detroiters’ physical health. This includes access to food, medical care and other basic needs. But school closures have left many Detroit students without healthy peer interactions. They’ve also been missing out on interactions with the caring adults who provide for their social, emotional, and mental health needs.

That’s where The Yunion steps in.

The Yunion provides a variety of programs to support young people’s socio-emotional growth and their mental well-being, including conflict resolution training, life skills, and risk aversion, as well as training in job skills and science, technology, engineering, and math.

“Our mission is to reach adolescent youth and provide alternatives to negative cultural influences,” said Nicole Wilson, The Yunion’s executive director. “Our programs equip them to make better decisions for their lives and their futures.”

Addressing Existing and Emerging Needs

Mandated school closures left many of the youth The Yunion supports without these vital services.

“When the crisis occurred, we were closing out one program cycle, and we were going to start another cycle, but all that shut down,” said Nicole. “We were working with 10 school partners to provide programming to students.”

Despite the new challenges, The Yunion continues to serve youth and their families.

“We will be working with partners to get students enrolled in the virtual programming,” said Nicole. “Our community’s youth need services and they need to interact with peers in a healthy and productive way, and they need mentoring and support from caring and trusting adults. This is a very challenging time, and that support may be missing at home. We want to be able to support as many students as we possibly can.”

A New Programming Model

With support from United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s COVID-19 Community Response Fund, The Yunion has been able to shift in-person programming to a virtual platform.

“We’re using United Way support to not only adapt our curriculum to a virtual format, but also to provide tablets to students with technological needs. We’ve hired a project manager to ensure this conversion runs smoothly.”

The Yunion’s staff is also working with internet providers to get free internet service to students and families they serve.

As of April 9, three of The Yunion’s programs have launched in a digital format. The rest will launch the week of April 13. They plan to launch a virtual academy in mid-May that would provide programming to all interested students in Metro Detroit.

“I’m very proud of the staff,” said Nicole. They’ve been working around the clock and with some great partners to get these things off the ground. All our staff have had training on the new digital platforms, as well as training for adaptation of the virtual curriculum.”

Hope for Nonprofit Partners

Nicole knows the importance of reaching out to partners and funders during this time to support community members.

“Reach out and take advantage of all the resources that are out there for you,” she said. “And reach out to other nonprofits and ask for information and resources. People will share what is effective for them with their peers.”

For all organizations supporting the community during this time, relying on one another will ease the burden.

“We’re all in this together; we’re not alone unless we choose to be,” said Nicole. “We must lean on one another to do this.”

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