GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The pandemic may be over, but kids across the country are still dealing with the bad study habits they developed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Members of the Black Impact Collaborative in West Michigan have been working to mentor those children so they can get past those challenges.

“We developed this program to be that extra set of eyes,” Farris Withers said.

Withers is the student monitor for the organization’s Home Stretch Student Academic Success Program. It’s an educational achievement program designed to put monitors one-on-one with students to help them with their academics.

The pilot program began in May of last year as students completed their first full year of virtual learning. The program lasted for five weeks.

“From the pilot program, our students were very excited and engaged. They noticed that they felt more confident with doing their work virtually. We felt students were able to communicate with teachers about assignments and motivated to excel towards the end of the pilot year,” Withers said.

The program was offered again in September 2021 and lasted the entire academic year. There are currently 16 students enrolled in this second year.

Withers meets virtually with each student at least once a week. She asks questions about their life, school day and classes. She also offers tips based on a particular student’s needs.

“We review grades. We review homework assignments that is pertinent to what they’re studying. Sometimes, they need extra tutoring with those assignments so I work through that with them,” she said.

Lillian Henley enrolled her two in the program last school year. She realized she shouldn’t help them rebound from the pandemic alone.

Christian Henley,14, logging into his one-on-one session with his student monitor.

“With my youngest son, the virtual learning was hard for him. Pre-COVID he was reading above grade level, but we had some struggles with reading during the pandemic. So, I was looking for the additional support to help get him on track with reading,” Henley said. “I just didn’t want them to fall through the cracks.”

Her oldest son, 14-year-old Christian, had trouble staying organized and turning in assignments because of the “back and forth” in the school year between in-person and virtual learning.

Though after the first few sessions in the program, Henley began to notice improvements. Christian did too.

“It has helped me a lot to be more productive when I come home from school,” he said. “It makes my grades a lot better. I’m more organized than I was.”

This lost learning and lack of motivation was the story for most children across the country. There have been efforts on the state and federal levels to help districts respond.

The deep-rooted challenges take more than just parents, educators and policymakers coming together.

“(Farris has) become part of our extended family, a part of the village,” Henley said.

According to a report released by the Department of Education last year, data showed that the pandemic negatively affected academic growth and widened pre-existing disparities among Black and Latinx students.

That is the reason BIC formed the Home Stretch program to make sure students of color, particularly those between kindergarten and 9th grades, didn’t get left behind.

Withers hopes the tips provided during the sessions guide the students to a successful future.

“It’ll help them with their career goals, their professional goals, academic goals,” she said.

The program is currently full. If you would like to provide your resources or get your child enrolled in future programs, you can contact the Black Impact Collaborative here.