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Missions launches academic center for pandemic learning

The Edmundite Missions opened its new Dr. Michael and Catherine Bullock Community and Recreation Center, a beacon of light and activity that explodes along Broad Street across from historic Tabernacle Baptist Church, last year as a place for the community to come for exercise, education and fellowship.

But the still-raging COVID-19 pandemic, which as of Friday had infected nearly 95,000 people across the state and killed more than 1,600, forced the local Missions to change course – with students in Selma set to learn remotely for at least the next nine weeks, Edmundite Missions President and CEO Chad McEachern decided students would need a hand.

“For so many of the students we serve, school is more than a place to learn,” McEachern said. “It is also a source of nutrition, mental health support and more. While the Missions has been providing these kinds of services for over 80 years, we want to ensure that during the pandemic it is as easy as possible for students to utilize our services.”

Beginning Aug. 24, the Missions’ community center will be open for each school day as an Academic Resource Center, which will observe all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines regarding masks and social distancing.

In order to accommodate students, the Missions has stocked the academic center with new computers and new internet access points to ensure that the network can handle the demands of dozens of students using the computers at the same time.

Additionally, tutors will be on hand to help out, including volunteers from Americorps’ National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), community members and Missions’ staff that will be led by Sisters Kathy Navara and Mary Cashman.

Healthy snacks will be available to students and breaks will be taken in line with lunch and dinner service at the Missions’ Bosco Nutrition Center.

Further, if social or mental health needs arise, the Missions will make licensed social workers available through its Catholic Social Ministries Office.

First through sixth grade students can attend on two sessions that will offered each day, the first from 9:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. and the second from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m., while the Academic Resource Center will be open to from 10:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. for seventh grade students through high school seniors.

Attendance for all programs will be on a first-come, first-serve basis and dictated by the space available to safely serve each student.

For his part, McEachern believes the Missions’ Academic Resource Center will be widely used by local students.

“We know many children in our community lack internet or hardware in their homes,” McEachern said. “The adults in these homes may also not have time to help them academically while working. With the way they teach math now, I know I could not be much help. The Missions will always step up in challenging times to make sure those we serve are taken care of, particularly our young people. We can’t let them fall behind. It simply isn’t an option.”

For information on the Edmundite Missions or the Academic Resource Center, visit www.edmunditemissions.org or contact Edmundite Missions Director of Communications Joe O’Quinn at joe@edmunditemissions.org.