Thomasville Heights Elementary School of Atlanta lies just minutes south of the trendy bars and restaurants and pricey homes of East Atlanta Village, Grant Park, and Little Five Points, but it feels a world away. It lies trapped between an old landfill, the razor wire fences of Atlanta’s Federal Pen, a housing project, and a boarded-up public library.
It’s one of Atlanta’s lowest-performing public schools, suffering from a forty-percent annual enrollment turnover rate. Most of its students miss more than a week of school annually, and less than ten percent of its fifth-graders read at grade level. But thanks to the efforts of the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation (AVLF), partner organizations, the school itself, and the Thomasville Heights community, things are looking up.
AVLF trains, mentors, and supports pro bono attorneys to assist low-income people at critical times. Within its offices inside Thomasville Heights Elementary, AVLF works passionately to address the root causes of poor performance as part of its Standing with Our Neighbors Initiative. Since the initiative kicked off, AVLF has become a partner to the community, attending and hosting public functions, developing relationships with neighbors, and getting to know neighborhood dynamics.
The vast majority Thomasville Heights Elementary students live across the street in a project-based Section 8 apartment complex riddled with mold, cockroaches, maintenance problems, and other health and safety concerns. Not surprisingly, these kids suffer from higher-than-normal rates of asthma and other health issues, forcing them to miss school. Parents are often hesitant to complain about conditions because they fear retaliation from the landlord. Instead, they may stay silent or look for affordable housing elsewhere. Housing instability, AVLF and its partners are convinced, is a primary contributor to Thomasville’s high student turnover rates. Families stressed out by health or housing issues can’t put learning first.
AVLF, the largest provider of tenant representation in Atlanta, knows that students cannot thrive when forced to live in unstable housing and deplorable conditions. They sponsor know-your-rights talks and pop-up legal clinics at locations within Thomasville to help residents advocate for better living conditions. Working on referrals from school nurses, social workers, and teachers, they advocate for and represent individual clients to force remediation of deplorable conditions, halt evictions, and resolve underlying issues.
[TechBridge’s custom implementation of Salesforce] revolutionized the way we do our work.— Michael Lucas, Deputy Director of the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation
AVLF handles a lot of data, and they needed a robust way to manage it. In TechBridge helped AVLF install a custom, Salesforce-based CRM system that includes MapAnything technology. With it, AVLF can efficiently upload, integrate, and share client histories. They can monitor and report on the school system, poverty, public health, and other demographic data and see that information overlaid on a neighborhood map. They can easily schedule clinics, meetings, and fundraisers. They can manage lawyer and non-lawyer volunteer schedules. Having access to and the ability to organize and create reports with their data also improves AVLF’s ability to show potential donors how the work they’re doing is making a difference in specific communities.
It revolutionized the way we do our work, says AVLF deputy director Michael Lucas.
AVLF plans to expand its Standing with our Neighbors Initiative into several other challenged local communities starting next year. AVLF’s work in and commitment to these neighborhoods show that we are, truly, #BetterTogether.
About TechBridge’s #BetterTogether Campaign
TechBridge is proud to have assisted so many organizations on the front lines of social change in our communities — alleviating homelessness, fighting poverty, helping kids do better in school, making sure seniors get proper meals, and so much more.
We created the #BetterTogether campaign so that we can showcase some of the important efforts of the nonprofits and people we’ve worked with. And because social change is a community effort, we also wanted to showcase the generous sponsors, amazing technology partners, tireless volunteers, and TechBridge staff who enable us to do our work.
We feel that these stories exemplify the transformational work that can happen when organizations and individuals work hard — together — towards a common goal. We hope that hearing these stories is as inspirational to you as it is to us.