RICHMOND, Va. -- Keeping students on track academically is the mission that fuels Lisa Smith-Hicks and her team at the Outreach Involvement Center.
The alternative education program helps area students who are experiencing personal and educational challenges.
Whether its getting suspended or expelled from school, her non-profit program steps in to keep the learning going so students can earn a high school diploma.
Since Smith-Hicks founded the nonprofit six years ago, two dozen students have graduated.
"The students that come to us... they have behavior issues, focus, lack of attention. They actually don't have the guardianship at home to make sure things are done in order," said Smith-Hicks.
She says her instructors and mental health professionals guide and support students who attend OIC year round.
They know many of the kids not only have challenges in the home, they're also experiencing negative impacts from the coronavirus pandemic.
This month, OIC is partnering with Project Give Back to Community, a non-profit run by local Radio One host Clovia Lawrence, AKA Miss Community Clovia. They`ll offer trauma-informed care sessions to families and students.
"What is real trauma? What does love look like to you? Giving them the basics so we can understand and we lay that foundation because we want them to be successful too," explained Clovia. "They just can't be successful in a normal school setting but it doesn't mean they're not great kids."
"We are going to be working on trauma because a lot of our kids don't know what trauma is. This way of learning is a trauma for them as well. They're not used to this, so it's kind of hard for them to get back into a real norm," Smith-Hicks added.
As students gear up for new virtual learning, Smith-Hicks says she's worried some may fall through the cracks.
"We have students that are going to be able to focus virtually learning with no problem. What about the ones that are not. So, they deserve an education just like the rest. They just need a little bit more help and support, to make sure that gets done."
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