Volunteers with Project Navigate at another giveaway last month. Photo courtesy Project Navigate.

With classes scheduled to start in person later this month, students in Long Beach are invited to pick up some necessary resources on Wednesday evening to help prepare them for the upcoming school year. Project Navigate—a group based out of TAY Academy near the corner of Seventh Street and Cherry Avenue—is holding a back-to-school drive-thru event on Aug. 4 from 4 to 6:30 p.m. where students of all ages can receive free school supplies, food and other resources.

TAY Academy and Project Navigate operate under the larger umbrella of Mental Health America of Los Angeles (MHALA), a nonprofit that focuses on assisting community members with mental health needs, including veterans, members of the LGBTQ community and anyone experiencing homelessness.

“We are throwing this event to assist our community and those who we haven’t reached yet, to help them through going back to school and everything that entails,” said Annie Asch, a lead peer navigator with MHALA.

Project Navigate was started about 18 months ago and is one of three main programs operating out of TAY Academy. The organization is geared toward “Transition-Age Youth” in the 18-25 range, but Asch said that Wednesday’s drive-thru event would be open to any student in need of support.


“It’s open to all ages because we want this to be for those in our community who don’t know about Project Navigate, or don’t know about TAY Academy, who need resources that they don’t have access to,” Asch explained. “Something as simple as a meal, or just some folders or a notebook, that means everything to somebody that is unable to have regular access to that. And there are a lot of folks in our community who need that.”

Long Beach is home to one of the two TAY Academy locations in the Los Angeles area. The programs offered at the academy include a wide array of services related to mental health, housing, education and employment.

“That’s what I live for, I love helping people,” said Dallas Kearney, a peer navigator who started with Project Navigate back in October. “I’m happy when I see an individual succeed, grow closer to their goals and accomplish them. It makes me wake up every morning and do this job. I really love it.”

TAY Academy is at 2025 East 7th Street in Long Beach. Those interested in attending Wednesday’s back-to-school drive-thru event are instructed to enter the alley off Cherry Avenue just north of Seventh Street to collect their supplies at the red building, and exit onto St. Louis Avenue. Masks are requested for all guests, and some PPE will be provided.

Additional information about the back-to-school event and others like it are available via Project Navigate’s Instagram page. More background on Mental Health America of Los Angeles and the various services it offers can be found at MHALA.org.

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