At the onset of the pandemic in 2020, Avenues for Justice (AFJ) quickly pivoted our intake, court advocacy and wraparound services to a virtual platform. We digitally equipped our Participants’ homes with Wi-Fi and technology in order for them to readily access our programs. This approach, while initially launched in response to our community centers being closed for the quarantine, increased our ability to reach youth citywide.
Since our Harlem and Lower East Side community centers fully reopened last month, we’ve resumed onsite and in-person services, in addition to launching a hybrid platform which enables our services to be accessible remotely. In 2021, thanks to a technology grant from the Hyde and Watson Foundation, we were able to upgrade both centers’ computer labs and we recently added two Meeting Owls by Owl Labs and two Poly Studio Conferencing bars.
Each piece of technology serves a purpose: the Meeting Owls enable us to hold onsite workshops between the two centers with remote connectivity available for our Participants. The Poly Studio conferencing bar allows onsite Participants to interact in real-time with instructors leading our workshops remotely.
In just a short period, this equipment has already proven that our hybrid programming platform is running smoothly. In May, AFJ Court Advocate, Brian Stanley, led two Legal Rights & Responsibilities workshops at our Harlem Center by using the Poly Studio Bar to connect with onsite Participants at our Lower East Side Robert Siegal Center, and those joining remotely.
As we continue to increase our hybrid-learning capabilities, we are breaking down geographic barriers and connecting with Participants who could not commute to our centers. Not only can we unite our two community centers through high quality mics and cameras, but we can now connect to our Participants from every zip code throughout the City.
Special thanks to everyone who helped us digitally equip our centers and Participants over the past two years including BET, United Way of New York City, Sony Music Group, New York Community Trust, Lubetsky Family Foundation, The Hyde & Watson Foundation, and FPWA (Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies).