ATL: Advance The Lives creates opportunities for Atlanta youth
Guest post by Taylor Stanley, program director, ATL: Advance The Lives
ATL: Advance The Lives was started in 2020 by Atlanta Quarterback Matt Ryan and his wife Sarah in the wake of the death of George Floyd. The Ryans have dedicated the work of ATL: Advance The Lives to combat the systemic barriers that Black youth face by partnering with out-of-school-time programs and local organizations. The vision of the organization is an Atlanta where every Black child has equal access to opportunities.
Children can’t take advantage of opportunities available for them if they can’t get there.
When we asked Atlanta nonprofit youth programs what some of their greatest barriers were for them and the youth that they serve, transportation consistently came up. A couple of organizations discussed how program staff and volunteers drive program participants home at the end of the day. Others mentioned providing their youth with free Marta cards. However, none of these options are really safe. The first option potentially holds the volunteer or staff member liable should an incident occur and the second leaves program participants on their own to get home.
Safety concerns are a barrier for many families, particularly Black low-income families to participate in after school programs.
In a 2020 national survey conducted by the After School Alliance, 53% of families said that not having a safe way for their child to get to and from after school programs was the reason for not having their children participate in one. This concern was even higher among Black low-income families at 62%. Organizations are actively working to address this great barrier. Prior to the pandemic, some were able to have agreements with Atlanta Public Schools to have school busses drop off students at or nearby their sites. Even then, that arrangement only solved half of the issue and were halted or put on hold during the pandemic, a time when many youth and their families needed additional support.
Most importantly, access to transportation leads to more opportunities for learning.
Many of our grant recipients seek to expose their program participants to various opportunities via field trips and events beyond their communities. Having access to transportation such as vans or even MARTA cards allows organizations to enhance the experiences of the youth in the programs. It also reduces the overall cost of each experience outside of their traditional learning spaces. Organizations are hustling to engage with outside partners to provide learning opportunities, but imagine being able to see how what they have learned in a real-world context.
Supporting organizations in expansion and experiences is at the heart of what we do.
When we started writing down our initial strategy, it didn’t include addressing transportation issues. We wanted to help organizations expand to more sites and serve more youth and to assist in providing more experiences for their program participants. However, we listened to the organizations we were seeking to support and quickly realized that transportation issues are systemic issues. We realized that in order to help organizations expand to serve more youth and to expose them to all of the opportunities Atlanta has to offer, we had to help them overcome this huge barrier.
This summer, the first financial gift that we gave was for a van to get more youth participants to At-Promise Youth Center. Later this year, we were pleased to launch our first grant program where half of the grants are funding for transportation. We also know that our work is not done, we are currently in the process of identifying funding for three additional vans for organizations that received grants.
Help us fight inequality where it starts.
We can’t do this work in isolation. We are constantly engaging with new potential partners and opportunities for collaboration. If you are interested in partnering with or donating to our efforts, please visit our website.