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Stories from the Front Lines

May 6, 2020

Michael Gomez

Michael Gomez, University Prep (UP!) High School Program Supervisor, shares an inspiring story about his colleague motivating others and taking action to help students and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michael Gomez, UP! High School Program Supervisor
Michael Gomez

When I was invited to share a story about my experience working and supporting UP! students and families over the past few weeks, I realized that I wanted to share about my colleague, Henry.

In the weeks immediately following the shelter in place order and our transition to virtual programming, Henry stepped up in an amazing way. Not only did he immediately volunteer to help clients every day, but he did this in addition to a significant amount of work he had as a middle school supervisor for our University Prep (UP!) program.

When we began working as part of the Canal Alliance emergency team, Henry worked beside me at the main reception desk, taking phone calls from clients and directing them to the services they needed. If he could help clients directly, he would do so, and would take their contact information in order to assist them with accessing food or financial resources.

In addition to his work on the emergency team, Henry also had work to do in his role as an UP! supervisor, calling each family and each student in our middle school program to determine their needs as well. And while addressing the immediate needs of both clients and his own UP! students and their families, he was also working to transition his entire afterschool program to a virtual platform. This required that he rapidly redesign the middle school program structure while navigating multiple platforms and coordinating with students to make the new system accessible and functional.

Through all of the challenges that occurred during this transition, and the other work that had to be attended to in his role on the Canal Alliance emergency response team, Henry’s love and positivity for the community never wavered. It was amazing to see how he was able to do his work in such a positive manner; no matter how overwhelmed he may have gotten, he never showed it to the clients or students. I was able to hear him as he made phone calls to students to check in with them during those first weeks after shelter in place was issued and his energy was vibrant and contagious. He made jokes with the students and ensured they were supported with the most positivity.

It has been inspiring to see how deeply intertwined in the community he is and how unending his service to our students.

Henry is an example of what makes UP! so effective in helping students to succeed in middle school and high school, and become the first in their families to attend and graduate from university. While he helped many people and accomplished many tasks during those first weeks after shelter in place, what continues to resonate with me is how he engaged with the students, and how he was so upbeat on every call.

Read more about our UP! program in the story Henry shared with us here on Stories from the Front lines

Learn more about our Crisis Response & Impact

While we hear many devastating individual stories, we are inspired by the resilience of our clients. We are also heartened by the generosity of our volunteers and donors who support our emergency response efforts.

Read more posts in: Stories from the Front Lines

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