Des Moines-area nonprofits win USA TODAY NETWORK community-building grants

When her kids’ schools moved online because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Claudia Longoria wasn’t sure what to do. Her kids, ages 12, 10 and 5, would be home all day, and Longoria and her husband both work full time outside of the home.

During the first week of online learning, she took off from work to support her kids, and quickly realized the older two wouldn’t be able to focus on school while being responsible for the 5-year-old.

“I told my husband I thought I would have to quit my job,” Longoria says. “I couldn’t really afford to quit, but I knew that if my kids were home alone, they would probably fall behind.”

Then she learned about the School Learning Academy, run by the Highland Park Community Development Association. Each school day, about 35 kindergartners through eighth-graders from low-income families come to the academy to do their online schooling in a supported environment. In addition to sending her kids to the academy, Longoria ended up getting a job there, helping kindergartners and first-graders.

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