New partnership helps students experiencing homelessness and trafficking earn a college degree
By Nikonie Brown, marketing administrative assistant, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta
Sometimes an introduction from a colleague can lead to a phenomenal opportunity to change lives, change futures and change families. This is the case for Dr. Kevin James, president of Morris Brown College, and Dr. Alieizoria Redd, executive director of Covenant House Georgia, who are constructing an innovative partnership to build promising futures. A mutual friend and colleague introduced the two of them, thinking that together, they could do great things.
As some Morris Brown College students were experiencing homelessness, Dr. James was looking for ways to support them and he initially was seeking housing options. Covenant House works to make sure young people experiencing homelessness have stable housing and it also provides services that set youth up for future success – which now includes a college degree. “Homelessness does not start because you lost a job,” said Dr. Redd. “Addressing homelessness is essential to providing opportunity. There’s lots of services that get wrapped around that. The partnership was a natural fit.”
This collaboration was created to address the gap in educational opportunities, housing and supportive services for youth experiencing homelessness and trafficking. Morris Brown College and Covenant House will serve, house and educate a cohort of 15 young people between the ages of 18 to 24 in this pilot program starting this summer, with the goal of overcoming obstacles to help them earn a bachelor’s degree in four years. The cohort model seeks to create a living community that holds each other accountable and increases their quality of life, self-sufficiency and stability.
Due to quick pivots from both organizations, the partnership will proceed despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Students at Morris Brown have switched to remote learning and Covenant House provided laptops and space to the youth so they can participate in programs virtually.
The seed investment in this partnership was also inspired by a conversation, when Dr. James and Dr. Redd approached members of the Foundation’s team with their spark of an idea. The pilot was seeded by a grant from the Eldon Wayne Williamson Scholarship Fund. Wayne Williamson sought to provide support and assistance to students who were looking to achieve greater opportunity in their own lives and then pass that on to improve the lives of others. He created this fund, as well as a designated fund, as a part of his estate planning and entrusted it to the Community Foundation to fund crucial opportunities that catapult students into a successful future.
Photo courtesy of Covenant House