NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Local groups in the area are working to take back the community.

Some students are struggling to keep up after switching to virtual learning during the pandemic, especially younger students.

“With COVID, what we’re seeing when we partner with teachers is some children are literally a year or two behind,” said Stop the Violence 757 President Freddie Taylor Sr.

Now, Stop the Violence 757 is working to reach those kids and get them back on track.

“We found out the smaller the group, the better it is because you can focus on each individual child,” said Taylor.

A new grant is helping Stop the Violence 757 expand Project Safe Haven. It’s a program currently in two Portsmouth Elementary Schools focused on mentoring, tutoring and literacy.

“When they don’t have an understanding, we walk them through the words, have them spell out the words and normally that helps to have an understanding of what they’re reading,” said Taylor.

Taylor says they’re noticing some kids are struggling after changes in learning during the pandemic, and with teacher shortages, sometimes the students aren’t getting the individualized attention they need.

“That’s why you need grassroots organizations to come in and partner,” said Taylor. “That’s how the community and the school can come together to help better the kids.”

The group also focuses on adult literacy so parents can have a better understanding of what their kids are learning and how to help.

“We have Adult Education of Portsmouth that works with us so we can help the parents have an understanding, so when the child does bring work home they have an understanding, know how to work the formulas and the process to work them through that,” said Taylor.

The Norfolk Police Foundation just awarded a mini-grant to Stop the Violence 757. The money is to help build community in areas that see a lot of crime. The group hopes to use this money to expand Project Safe Haven to schools in Norfolk.

“It allows us to know that what we’re doing matters and that there are individuals that are willing to invest in that initiative. So now we just have to put the key components in place and begin to let it run,” said Taylor.

“Being a parent myself, kids need attention, they need to be heard, they need to be given opportunities see people outside their community, in their community, working for them, working with them and supporting their needs,” said Parkview Elementary School Principal Dr. Quirstin Wynn-Inman.

Dr. Quirstin Wynn-Inman says this is the first year of the program at Parkview Elementary School. She says it’s important for students to be heard and supported.

“A lot of parents are working, sometimes our parents have single-parent households so this just gives our community another opportunity to provide the village that our kids need to grow and thrive,” said Dr. Quirstin Wynn-Inman.

Because when a child succeeds, the village succeeds too.

“They’re like ‘hey Mr. Freddie, look at this I can do this,’ you see the joy on their faces that they know that they comprehend and they fully understand so they’re empowered,” said Taylor. “It puts a smile on my heart because it lets us know that what we’re doing is effective.”

To reach Stop the Violence 757 or to help with their mission, visit their website.