Local sandwich store starts center for homeless youth to learn virtually

Posted at 6:58 AM, Sep 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-15 07:04:02-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Zero Subs near the Oceanfront has the meats, the cheese, toppings, and now it is also adding another ingredient - education!

Tools have been set up for homeless youth in the city who do not have internet access so they can attend virtual classes this school year and it comes at no cost.

"We set up the screens here and put tables behind so the youth can have a private area to sit in,” Mark Stevens, the store owner, showed News 3 – a tan-color partition with the words “Learning Center” written out and attached to the partition.

These learning centers are Stevens’ solution to help the homeless youth in Virginia Beach succeed in this virtual school year. There are two of those spots inside the restaurant and are equipped with WiFi that he said was upgraded.

"Education is supposed to be free, it's supposed to be available and we as a community we need to make sure that it's available to everybody."

He is also the executive director of Standup for Kids, a local nonprofit that provides support for learning youth.

"The school system is doing what they can do but they can't reach everybody and every corner,” Stevens said. “I know some of the schools will put hot spots in the parking lots. To me that's not the best place to learn.”

Stevens said the nonprofit helped 900 homeless children last year attending the Virginia Beach Public School division and that was before everything went virtual.

"None of us expected what we're seeing now,” Stevens said.

They started the effort last Monday, a day before the start of the school year. Though there are only two spots, Stevens said that if more children came in, he would open up more tables including the tables outside. The WiFI can reach outdoors.

Not only can those children fill their minds with knowledge, but they can also fill their stomachs with a hot meal at no charge. Stevens said the children will get food while they learn.

"We all have to eat, they're not in school,” Stevens explained, “they may not have food at home."

The restaurant also has a table with donated books. Children are welcome to take a book for free.

If the school year situation changes, Stevens said they can expand those learning areas and also have partner organizations that can provide teachers and volunteers to help out.

"We all need to go out and look to make sure everybody is getting their education,” Stevens said.