With a second disrupted school year in the books and what one hopes will be a more “normal” year ahead, America’s K-12 students stand at a crossroads. More kids have dropped out of school during the pandemic than in previous years. College applications among first-generation and low-income students are down. One study even suggests kids will continue to experience high rates of depression and anxiety brought on by the pandemic for up to nine years after this is over.

These immediate effects foreshadow possibly devastating consequences for a large proportion of this generation of kids who are living through COVID-19, particularly low-income and minority students.

But there is another path. These young people’s futures as adults — their ability to graduate from school, go to college, embark on meaningful careers, overcome the emotional and mental toll of the past year and a half — depend on what the nation does today to support them in the coming school year and beyond. The choice is clear: As states and districts make their plans for reopening school buildings to in-person learning five days a week in the fall, all students must have access to the community resources and tools they need to unlock their potential and thrive.

To that end, federal, state, and local governments, as well as school districts, nonprofit service providers, businesses, and community members must come together to fund and support evidence-based approaches like wraparound services and mentoring. These interventions connect children and their families to caring adults and essential aids like mental health checks and telehealth services, regular meal distribution, reliable internet access, and academic support — all of which are needed far beyond the pandemic.

Read the full article about supporting students of color by Artis Stevens and Rey Saldaña at The 74.