ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — School districts and students across the country continue to grapple with the impacts COVID-19 had on the educational experience.

“I’m more of an in-person [learner], with paper and pencil and all that,” said 17-year old Arianah Moore, “and over the computer, it just wasn’t the same.”

“I missed out on a lot of my friends and social life because of quarantine, and by the time COVID ended, I never got to see my friends again because I moved schools,” explained 15-year-old Kamryn Washington, “so I feel like it ruined everything.”

Moore and Washington aren’t alone. The effects of the pandemic on students and schools recently prompted New York State to announce millions of dollars in grants to address the mental health impacts and learning loss that happened due to COVID-19.

Summertime can add another layer of challenges for students who are already struggling. Dr. Khaitsa Wasiyo is the Director of Youthful Impact, an entrepreneurial program held in the Blake Annex in Albany that keeps people ages 14 to 24 thinking and learning in groups, rather than isolated at home.

“If you have nothing to do, what are you doing, right? You’re on your phone, you’re bored, you’re going to get distracted, you might get in trouble,” Dr. Wasiyo said, “so our program gives young people a structured approach to thinking about the things that are important to them.”

For Washington and Moore, the program is making them feel motivated about their futures and applying themselves at school.

The interests of the participants range from sports to finance, to tech support. All of them are working on their own business projects, and are encouraged to ask questions, think about their futures, and work together.

“Especially after COVID-19, a lot of kids don’t know how to talk to each other,” Dr. Wasiyo said, “so in our program there are a lot of group activities. They speak up, they stand up, and say what’s on their mind.”

While summer programs like this one are trying to help fill the gaps in socialization and learning, New York school districts are preparing to do so in the fall. Applications for the learning loss and mental health grants are due August 18th. High needs districts will get priority.