If there were any doubts that the pandemic wreaked havoc on the American educational system, they can now be laid to rest. The magnitude of Covid-related learning loss experienced by a cohort of 9-year-olds, the first group for which national data are available, presents a sobering reality, to say the least.

Despite the bleak portrait of student academic achievement and mental health, however, I remain hopeful that the lessons of the pandemic portend an educational comeback—one that recognizes why investment in K-12 education is so critical to our nation’s future and how to support youth proactively. And there are signs of just such a realization afoot. We comprehend the genesis of the problem, the magnitude of the loss and where to funnel our resources. Likewise, we recognize the profound impact of mental health on student learning, which points us to embedding mental health support systems in schools, including trauma identification, early intervention and public health approaches to the youth mental health crisis.

Leaders of educational nonprofits play a vital role in this transformation, and their contributions will be felt simply by treating schools as the center of the youth universe. At a practical level, nonprofit leaders should work directly with schools to deliver student and parent services during or directly before/after school, while housing their services directly within schools themselves (when feasible). This also necessitates strategic partnerships, data sharing, supplemental technology, positive adult mentors and ongoing education to create a community of support around students.

Moreover, educational nonprofit leaders should approach students with the recognition that academic achievement cannot be improved unless we address youth holistically. Yet, this requires pivoting to view mental health as the centerpiece of all efforts targeting students, even if mental health is not part of your program model. In particular, nonprofit education leaders can engage personnel in mental health training so that they recognize the signs of trauma, crisis and declining mental health in youth. Staff training and ongoing education in culturally competent approaches to working with students, especially related to the high rates of undiagnosed, underdiagnosed and untreated mental health issues among racial and ethnic minorities, can effectively reduce many of the barriers to intervention for these populations.

Read the full article about education nonprofits by Adam Powell at Forbes.