Last fall, thanks to the support of donors Jan and Jim Springer, YOTO launched the Youth On Their Own (YOTO) Student Portal! The timing of the portal launch came exactly when YOTO needed it most – during the COVID-19 pandemic when our students were attending school remotely. The portal significantly improved the way YOTO’s Program Team interacted with students, provided services, and offered essential resources to help students succeed!
Ongoing development of the student portal is an integral part of YOTO’s four-year strategic plan. Thanks to $268,500 in generous grant funding from the Abbett Family Foundation, YOTO now has the much-needed funds to make important additions and improvements to the student portal this year.
YOTO’s CEO, Elizabeth Slater shared: “The Abbett Family Foundation provides significant, meaningful financial support to carefully selected nonprofit partners where they can make a deep impact – and YOTO is honored to be a grantee! What makes this foundation so special is their willingness to fund infrastructure projects, knowing this work would be harder for us to fund through other channels. They believe in building our capacities and enabling us to take our impact to the next level.”
Here are some of the exciting changes we’ll be making to the portal thanks to the Abbett Family Foundation.
The portal completely transformed the way students enrolled in YOTO with the application and orientation process moving from paper to online last year. This was especially helpful during the pandemic since many students were doing online school. Students would then be contacted by a YOTO Program Coordinator who would be their go-to person for the year. This year, we are improving the application and workflow by allowing students experiencing homelessness who are not enrolled in school to still apply to YOTO for help. This allows Program Coordinators to assist more students with school re-enrollment and get them back in school and on track!
Another benefit of the portal is that it makes accessing YOTO services much easier for students. During the pandemic and even now as we shift to a “new normal”, YOTO youth can request free basic needs items like food, toiletries, household items, and school supplies from the Mini Mall. Because every item in the Mini Mall is donated by our amazing supporters, we want to ensure we are responsibly managing all donations that we receive. New portal upgrades will allow YOTO’s Mini Mall staff to track items by categories and subcategories to improve inventory management (for instance, cereals can now be subcategorized by type of cereal, beans by type of beans, and so on). We’ll also be able to manage time period limits on items, for example, specifying that students may request one full-size bottle of facewash a month or that students may request four cans of soup every week. Managing Mini Mall inventory is critical in knowing exactly what items we have for students, what we are running low on, and ensure fairness for each student. The Mini Mall is such an integral part of the YOTO Program and the portal upgrades will help us serve students even better than before!
Some other portal projects on the horizon include developing a liaison portal to keep YOTO’s amazing school liaisons informed and connected; increasing mobile friendliness for students; and adding a live chat feature to immediately answer student questions.
We are so grateful to the Abbett Family Foundation for believing in the importance of the portal project and recognizing how essential it is for YOTO to make these technological improvements now in order to better serve students. Thank you, Abbett Family Foundation, for your investment in and commitment to supporting YOTO youth!