Kate Ryan Magee

The Believe and Achieve Foundation (Exton, PA) is committed to helping the youth of Chester County thrive, specifically through difficult situations.  The non-profit was established in 2010 and is dedicated to providing basic needs to families along with programming geared towards establishing a growth mindset and facilitating experiential learning opportunities.   

Each summer the foundation supports Summer Enrichment Programming.  Traditionally, the format is experiential learning based, providing children with unique opportunities to engage in community-centered engagement. The success of these programs, driven by new experiences, purposeful community integration and curriculum designed to support academic growth, along with physical and mental health have become the cornerstone of the foundation’s strategic plan.   A 2019 grant from the Philadelphia Phillies Charities ensured that Believe and Achieve would be able to grow, securing sites in both West Chester and Coatesville for the summer of 2020.  The onset of COVID-19 rapidly put these plans in jeopardy.  In April it became very clear that in-person enrichment would be a long-shot.  Believe and Achieve’s Executive Director, Kate Magee and  Director of Development and Programming, Kara Todd immediately set out to secure alternative options to ensure the foundation would be able to continue effectively serving families.  A Program Leadership team was assembled consisting of educational professionals with specific interests and commitment towards community service.  The team consisted of Kara Todd,  Susan Flynn, Rose Manion, Anne Guidotti and Shaniece Stonewall.  They identified specific needs of families, along with the technological and educational gaps and creatively problem solved means to address each issue.  The Virtual Summer Enrichment Program was developed and a plan to execute was set for 4 weeks in July.  Strategic partnerships were made with West Chester School District, Padres Latinos and The Chester County Intermediate Unit to offer the free need-based program.  The roster quickly filled to forty participating children.   

The virtual program kicked off on Monday, July 6th.   All children were offered free access to technology based on a grant from the Community Clothes Charity along with a partnership with West Chester University’s Technology Resource Department.    Each day the children were offered 2 hours and 15 minutes of online engagement led by three PA certified teachers.  The curriculum was planned to emphasize positivity, perseverance and growth, skills that in current times are critically useful to us all.   The students were also offered a 30 minute “lunch bunch” opportunity to allow the students to socially engage in a more relaxed setting.  Each week brought a number of community guests to the program.  Guests included high school students, college athletes, Villanova University nursing students, district teachers & administrators and even local yoga instructors, offering some virtual mindfulness!  

 Each Monday the families had 5 breakfasts and 5 lunches delivered to them for all children living in the home.  This was over 2000 meals that were provided over the 4 week period.   A new community partnership with the Chester County Intermediate Unit’s Head Start Program helped to make this possible.  Additional nutritional support was provided each Wednesday afternoon.  Families were able to pick up several boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables- courtesy of the Chester County Food Bank.  They also picked up  program supplies & summer fun kits at a designated spot in either West Chester or Coatesville.  These kits included sporting equipment, art supplies, new bathing suits & flip flops, sunscreen, new reading books, journals and so much more.  These kits were provided with help from Partners in Outreach & The Sow Good Now Foundation along with a grant from The 1830 Family Foundation.  The percentage of children that successfully logged into the program, along with the percentage of families accessing the community service support was outstanding.  The children were enthusiastically engaged and gained extensive hands-on experience with Zoom &  Google Classroom, skills which will be deeply valuable during the upcoming months of “virtual classrooms.” 

According to Executive Director, Kate Magee “2020 has brought extreme uncertainty to the non-profit world.  Cancelled programming, postponed fundraising events and changes in grant writing opportunities have paralyzed many organizations.  It is so often that non-profits find ourselves competing for funding, support & volunteers.”  Yet through this uncertainty the Believe and Achieve Foundation has found a way to bring a number of community groups and educational professionals together to effectively serve our children and their families- bringing consistency, hope and good will during times of difficult uncertainty.      

The Believe and Achieve Foundation is committed to adapting to the changing climate and rising needs of our community.  Please consider becoming more involved or making a donation at :www.believeandachievefoundation.org  

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