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Coronavirus Heroes Part 5: Teresa Adams, Leap Frog continue to educate despite challenges

This is the fifth in the EAGLE’s 10-part Coronavirus Heroes series. Every weekend, a new Coronavirus Hero will be featured. This week’s Coronavirus Hero is Teresa Adams, executive director of Leap Frog.

When the schools were officially closed for the remainder of the current school year due to the coronavirus, the Leap Frog program and executive director Teresa Adams were left in a bind.

The shift to online distance learning forced the after-school mentoring and literacy program for elementary students to drastically change how they would continue to provide a service to the children and to keep their volunteers engaged. The program relies heavily on University of Mississippi students, as well has high school students, as volunteers.

“First, of course, we were sad,” Adams said. “I’m a very people person, and so my favorite part of the job is getting to be with the kids and the volunteers. So, we mourned a little bit, or I personally did, just missing that piece. Everyone did, especially teachers who work with kids.”

Once Adams accepted the current situation of things, she said she began to think out how to shift to the digital model. Adams, along with assistant director Dana Engelbert, began contacting parents and the volunteer tutors to see who would be able to participate in their online program.

Some of the volunteer tutors used FaceTime and Zoom to meet with their students, allowing them to share their screens and read an online book together that Adams found.

“We began planning for a shift to virtual tutoring the week after spring break,” Engelbert said. “We partnered with the school district to understand the technology they would be providing, and we reached out to parents and volunteer tutors – now scattered to the wind – to learn who was willing and able. Teresa did the hard work of connecting those volunteers and their students. She has those strong relationships and can pull that together, making it look almost effortless.”

With students stretching across the area from as far as Como, and not knowing how many had reliable internet access, Adams began putting together packs. The packs consisted of materials and supplies Adams found at the Leap Frog office, and she began making deliveries all around Oxford and Lafayette County.

“Continuing to learn from home and doing their schoolwork was going to be hard, especially if parents have to go back to work,” Adams said. “So, we went to the site and just gathered up all of our supplies. Pencils, paper, educational supplies like that and a bunch of our books and just packed it up. … (We) literally drove 200 miles around Oxford and the county, just delivering these supplies for the kids.”

Adams also found resources through Amazon and provided packages to send to 20 other students whom they couldn’t reach, due to their location.

Leap Frog is currently working on ways to fundraise in order to offset those additional costs, as well as helping fund next year, due to the pandemic canceling their plans for a major spring event.

Once Oxford School District has completed construction of the new Central Elementary and all the reshuffling is completed ahead of the upcoming school year, Leap Frog will relocate to the old Oxford Elementary School building on Highway 30.