9 November 2020

As partners in our twenty-first century world, the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) and the East Stroudsburg Area School District (ESASD) in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, United States of America, share a mission and vision to foster a global perspective in all students and to seek partnerships wherever possible to achieve common goals. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UNAI has empowered its members and partners to provide ideas and solutions to global problems and to present their innovations to the United Nations. The energy of the United Nations lies in the transformative power of ideas brought to life. This call to action has been answered by ESASD, which recognizes that despite mandated school closures, learning and education must never cease. It is the mission of ESASD to foster creative, productive and responsible citizens with a global perspective, regardless of the circumstances our local and global communities are facing. The objectives of ESASD and UNAI exemplify the importance of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which promote quality education (SDG 4) and the building of partnerships for the Goals (SDG 17).

On 16 March 2020, ESASD closed all of its educational buildings to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Through the use of distance learning technology—a groundbreaking, one-to-one programme wherein all students have access to Chromebook laptop computers—and the coordination and collaboration of teachers, administrators and school personnel, ESASD continued to deliver a high quality education to students. Known as the Learn from Home programme, students fulfilled history, literature and science curriculum requirements, as well as art, music and languages. Food insecurity exacerbated globally by COVID-19 was also addressed; support staff were put into action, using school buses to deliver food to students while schools remain physically closed. This programme continues today.

ESASD School Bus providing meal delivery during quarantine and beyond.

ESASD has partnered with the local Monroe County Historical Association to document our students’ and their family’s experiences during quarantine. This project, titled Collecting in the Time of COVID-19, has received over 250 unique submissions, including journals and paintings, as well as digital photos and written descriptions of our daily lives. “It has been an interesting experience to see the connections amongst our community despite being in isolation at the beginning of the pandemic”, reflected ESASD Art Department Chair, Mercy Shemansky. “We were all sharing our own experiences in our own homes, yet there was a common theme that resonated. You could see there was hope and good happening during a scary time. “This will serve as a primary resource for future generations”.

The COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine presented an assortment of challenges to families and children accessing education from home. Many students in the District are English language learners (ELL) who serve as a bridge between their non-English-speaking families and their new community. “English language learners are of particular importance to me”, remarked Angel Lowe, ELL specialist at JM Hill Elementary School. While our community is experiencing this difficult time together, not all circumstances are the same. Imagine newly immigrated families who are not English-proficient, struggling to discern daily communications regarding the sudden change in their child’s education, which now also requires utilizing new technologies. It was a drastic shift, yet my ELL families steadfastly pressed forward, achieving much success”.

Jayden, a student at Bushkill Elementary, holds up a copy of the Pocono Record, featuring a picture of him with his sign supporting essential workers.

Collecting team member and J.T. Lambert Intermediate School Art Teacher, Michelle Christopher, shared her drive to contribute, “The idea of the citizen-historian has been a great motivator for all of us. We are personally involved in documenting history that will be preserved for generations to come”. Maria Francois, East Stroudsburg High School North Science Teacher described the project as one that embraces the community. “As we live through this pandemic that will be studied generations from now, we felt it was important to document the experiences of our community. It has been an amazing experience so far being on the collections team and seeing how our community was able to come together for good during this time of so much uncertainty”.

The stakeholders’ response to the efforts to document our history truly illustrates that despite challenges and distances, we as a community continue to seek connections and demonstrate resilience towards a brighter future together, in Pennsylvania and in our wider global family.

The UN Chronicle  is not an official record. It is privileged to host senior United Nations officials as well as distinguished contributors from outside the United Nations system whose views are not necessarily those of the United Nations. Similarly, the boundaries and names shown, and the designations used, in maps or articles do not necessarily imply endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.