boy sitting in class

It’s tempting to skip right over reflecting on 2020 and fast forward directly to 2021 and the promise of brighter days ahead. But the truth is that reflecting on 2020 is required. And, for so many of us, 2020 has been a mirror. 

This is a year in which we’ve been confronted with all the ways we have failed each other in this country. We have also seen up close just how much we are capable of when we see clearly and come together.

Reflecting on When A Pandemic Changed Everything

It’s hard to believe that just a year ago, the words coronavirus and COVID-19, were not in our vocabulary. Few of us had conceived of social distancing or mask mandates or the need for pods and quarantine. When we closed our doors and moved our schools online in March 2020, it was an unprecedented and temporary step. The many months that followed have been unrelentingly difficult and heart-breaking for so very many of us. They’ve also underscored what community really means. The AF community didn’t disappear when our school buildings closed. Our community became digital. 

Our teachers taught with puppets, through at-home newscasts and in-house science labs. AF students ran for class office, presented original poetry and absorbed complex math lessons. We established some of the best remote learning and remote community in the country. And we built a Team & Family Support Fund to help each other in this time of incredible need.

When A Racial Justice Reckoning Was Long Overdue

Around us, our country grappled with the pandemic and with the longer-lasting, more pervasive, deadlier epidemic of racial injustice. In 2020, the world took notice of George Floyd. And of Ahmad Ahmad Arbery and Breonna Taylor, of Rayshard Brooks, Jonathan Price and Tony McDade. Together, we  said enough. We took to the streets to make our voices heard.

And as we fought against police brutality we also looked within our own organization and called for change. We committed to, and upheld, our board’s new Leading for Racial Equity resolution, which led to changes including the hiring of AF’s first Chief Equity Officer.

When We Realized Our Collective Power

Through it all, we’ve celebrated the impact of people across the country coming together, the importance of civic engagement and a presidential election with record-shattering turnout. Together, we amplified the voices of young people and all that our next generation can accomplish.

We’ve cheered our Class of 2020, who graduated high school during this pandemic, determined as ever to chase their big dreams. We have celebrated the legacy of our founding co-CEOs, Dacia Toll and Doug McCurry who after 21 years of powerful leadership will be passing the  torch of leadership to our new CEO, Richard Buery, Jr. in March. We’ve applauded the opening of our newest Providence elementary school and the incredible achievements of the 15,000 students we have the privilege of serving every day.

We are ready for the promise and challenges that 2021 will hold. We are grateful for the opportunity to reflect on everything this year has taught us, and on all we still must learn.

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