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County Executive Ball Announces $1.3 Million in CARES Act Funding for HoCo STRIVES Virtual Learning Support

County Executive Ball Announces $1.3 Million in CARES Act Funding for HoCo STRIVES Virtual Learning Support

September 21, 2020

Media Contact:

Scott Peterson, Director of Communications, Office of Public Information, 202-277-9412 

$750,000 of funding directed toward Howard County Scholars Program, $450,000 toward Digital Equity, and $100,000 toward Food Access

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today announced $1.3 million in CARES Act Funding to support children and families through the county’s HoCo STRIVES (Strategies To Reach an Inclusive Vision and Equitable Solutions) initiative. Joining Ball at the East Columbia 50+ Center for the announcement were Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano, Department of Community Resources and Services (DCRS) Director Jacqueline Scott, Department of Technology and Communications (DTCS) Director Brandee Ganz, and Leaders of Tomorrow Youth Center Executive Director Dana Carr. Photos of the event can be found here. Video can be found here.

The $1.3 million investment will consist of:

  1. $750,000 for the Howard County Scholars Program to provide in-person instruction to selected middle school students.
  1. $450,000 to reduce the Digital Equity gap by providing free internet services for families in need, expanding broadband services, and providing additional public Wi-Fi hotspots.
  1. $100,000 to improve food access with free meal deliveries to those who cannot access food distribution centers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on all of us. As a former educator and father to two public school students, I know firsthand that making sure our children receive a quality and rigorous education virtually is very challenging and can often be frustrating,” said County Executive Ball. “The collaboration among DCRS, DTCS, the Office of Community Sustainability’s Roving Radish program, HCPSS and non-profit partners Leaders of Tomorrow Youth Center and the Bright Minds Foundation has created a holistic approach through HoCo STRIVES that supports virtual education for our students and families who need it most. HoCo STRIVES was created to support our education outreach efforts in fostering an environment for ready and successful students. When we created this vision, we could not foresee that it would also play this critical part in our response to a health crisis. I am so proud of the ingenuity, compassion, and effort that HoCo STRIVES has provided to some of the most vulnerable families in our community. We are thankful to our Congressional Delegation - Senators Cardin, Van Hollen and Representatives Sarbanes, Mfume, and Ruppersberger - for this critical funding as well as their continued work to pass another much-needed assistance bill that is currently stalled on Capitol Hill. As evident over the last several months, we are at our best when we unite to put the health, safety, and welfare of all residents at the forefront of our efforts.”

"Thank you to our county partners for enhancing the community supports necessary for our families. We realize that even more must be done to fully serve every child, family and person who is struggling during this pandemic," said Dr. Michael J. Martirano, HCPSS Superintendent. "Improved internet access and technology to support learning, services that eliminate food insecurities and educational opportunities that overcome equity barriers will help to build upon the work we have done in this county over the last several months to help families support their children’s health, well-being and education."

DCRS manages the HoCo STRIVES initiative, which focuses on children’s mental and behavioral health programs, academic, social and emotional learning supports, and community capacity building.

“Core to our mission in the Department of Community Resources and Services (or you can say DCRS) is to ensure that all Howard County residents have what they need to grow, thrive, and live with dignity,” said Jacqueline Scott, DCRS Director. “We take great pride in our ability to work closely with communities to meet their needs. This initiative is a clear example of commitment and collaboration between county, state, and federal partners to work together to ensure that COVID does not become a barrier to achievement. We want to make sure that the playing field remains level for all children, that no one is left behind, and that everyone has a clear path to quality education.”

Howard County Scholars Program - $750,000:

$750,000 of CARES Act funds will be directed toward the Leaders of Tomorrow Youth Center which will administer the Howard County Scholars Program for in-person education of middle school students from September through December 2020. This program, at no cost to families, will engage students by supporting and supplementing virtual learning with social and emotional development and enrichment activities. The program’s goal is to provide as much individualized education as possible to maximize the students’ outcomes from the virtual learning experience while alleviating child care burdens for vulnerable families.

Current participating HCPSS Middle Schools include: Wilde Lake, Oakland Mills, Lake Elkhorn, Harper’s Choice, Elkridge Landing, Patuxent Valley, and Dunloggin. Following an assessment of the initial implementation of the program, additional schools may be added.

The Howard County Scholars Program consists of 12 students per class with an instructor and all teaching and facilities will abide by CDC COVID-19 requirements. Students will be given breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack and the County will also offer transportation at designated pickup spots to and from on-site learning locations to be held at the East Columbia, Bain, North Laurel, and Ellicott City 50+ Centers.

“Leaders of Tomorrow Youth Center (LTYC) is an arts education non profit organization that supports youth, ages 3-21 in the state of Maryland and DC with arts programs that empower them to excel in the arts, academics, and social development,” said Dara Carr, Executive Director of Leaders of Tomorrow Youth Center. “We are excited about this collaborative effort in Howard County and believe that this will make a significant impact on the students participating. LTYC thanks Howard county and its partners, including families, for the opportunity to serve.

Digital Equity - $450,000

$450,000 of the HoCo STRIVES CARES Act will fund 500 hotspots and free internet service to 500 families across the county to improve digital inclusion through a partnership between the Howard County Government, HCPSSS and the Bright Minds Foundation. The attached “heat map” shows areas identified where internet and broadband access is most in need.

Nine additional internet access points have also been provided or expanded to provide free public Wi-Fi access at the following locations:

  1. Columbia Lakefront
  1. Downtown area of Historic Ellicott City
  1. Clarksville Commons
  1. Long Reach Village Center
  1. Middle Patuxent Environmental Area (MPEA) – in the parking lot off of Trotter Rd
  1. Gary Arthur Community Center - allowing for access from the parking lot
  1. George Howard Building (GHB) - at the front courtyard near entrance area of the building
  1. Blandair Regional Park
  1. Kiwanis Wallace Park - near the back fields  

“Howard County established a cross-governmental Digital Equity Working Group to find innovative solutions to bridge the digital divide,” said Brandee Ganz, DTCS Director. “Through this partnership with local non-profits and broadband providers, we have teams focusing on improving connectivity, device access, digital skills and technical support, and advocacy as we ensure that all of our students have equitable access to the internet to support their virtual learning.”

"Bright Minds is focused on internet connectivity and ensuring all students can access remote learning,” said Liz Crammond, Executive Director of the Bright Minds Foundation. “By partnering with Comcast, we have provided 500 Internet Essentials vouchers to families who need assistance accessing high speed internet. Additionally, over 450 hot spots have been deployed to provide further internet access support for students. Our students continue to need support. Please visit brightmindsfoundation.org to learn more about our work and to donate. The Kahlert Foundation is currently providing a dollar for dollar match for donations made to the Access to Learning Fund."

Food Access - $100,000

$100,000 of the HoCo STRIVES CARES Act funding will go to Howard County’s award-winning Roving Radish program to serve families who are unable to access other food resources in the county. This funding provides free meal kits and grocery boxes to 55 families per week and subsidized meal kits to 212 families.

The Roving Radish has distributed 8657 kits this year – nearly 3300 more meal kits, a 38% increase, from last year at this time. Recently, the Roving Radish team moved into a new retail space in the Long Reach Village Center that will enhance and improve their preparation and distribution of meal kits.

“We feel very fortunate for the CARES act money,” said James Zoller, Roving Radish Program Manager. “This money has allowed the Roving Radish to meet the increased needs of the community during this pandemic. The funds are being used to allow us to continue to subsidize our meal kits as well as offer meal kits and grocery boxes at no cost for families severely impacted by COVID. We are also now able to provide delivery to families that are in quarantine or have transportation issues.”  

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