Although it has been more than two years since the first school shutdowns prompted by COVID-19, the academic achievement gap and mental health challenges brought on by the pandemic persist.


Disparities in academic achievement have been compounded in low-income regions and in communities of color. If left unaddressed these academic gaps resulting from the pandemic are expected to reduce the future lifetime earnings of youth and further widen racial wealth gaps. To overcome delays in academic and social-emotional development induced by the pandemic, it is more critical than ever to focus on the whole child approach which provides supports the academic, physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development of youth. It is essential that young people have high-quality programs focused on developmental supports, such as tutoring and quality out-of-school learning, to address the learning loss and educational inequities created and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.    

The Georgia legislature has allocated state funds to the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services to reduce learning loss for the state of Georgia. Among various strategies to utilizing the funds, United Way of Greater Atlanta (United Way) and the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (Georgia DFCS) has chosen to strategically focus on reducing learning loss by implementing a statewide competitive grant process. This grant opportunity will support community-based organizations in Georgia who are reducing learning loss through building reading skills, improving math proficiency, supporting school transition, strengthening family engagement, supporting learning acceleration, increasing access to quality out of school time and contextualizing learning. 

Please note: the grants are available to organizations serving school-age children.


Learning Loss applications will be accepted from October 3 – October 28 through United Way’s portal. Applicant orientation sessions will be held on October 4, 2022 at 1:30pm and  October 5, 2022 at 10am.  Prospective applicants can find grant details and the full eligibility criteria here.


As part of its Thrive by 25® commitment to investing in the well-being and success of young people ages 14 through 24, the Annie E. Casey Foundation is launching multiyear partnerships with organizations in Atlanta; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Baltimore. The three organizations lead comprehensive local efforts already underway to advance opportunities for young people to build skills and enter the workforce while developing their leadership and supporting their basic needs and relationships with family and mentors.

Providing both grants and expertise, Casey will work with the United Way of Greater Atlanta, Future Focused Education, an internship and work-based learning organization in Albuquerque; and with Baltimore’s Promise, a citywide collaborative composed of public, business, higher education, nonprofit, community and philanthropic leaders.

“The Foundation’s investments and technical assistance will expand capacity for these locally-driven efforts to build opportunities for large groups of youth and young adults across these communities and regions — all places where Casey has long invested with many partners and will continue to invest in the well-being of children and youth of all ages, families and communities,” said Tomi Hiers, vice president of the Foundation’s Center for Civic Sites and Community Change.

Baltimore, the Foundation’s hometown, and Atlanta, home to UPS, are the Foundation’s civic sites — communities where the Foundation has hometown ties and introduces innovative strategies that integrate the best programs and promising approaches for serving children and their families. New Mexico has been home to sites participating in JDAI®, the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative®, Thriving Families for Safer Children and Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential (LEAP)™, as well as the Albuquerque Justice for Youth Community Collaborative, which brings together more than 20 Albuquerque community-based organizations in a multi-year effort to ensure all young people are healthy and thriving.


United Way of Greater Atlanta: Creating Apprenticeships While Supporting Basic Needs

United Way of Greater Atlanta is committed to improving well-being for Atlanta’s children and young people, especially the nearly 500,000 children and youth in Greater Atlanta who lack access to the basic opportunities and resources they need to thrive.

Casey will support UWGA’s work through two main strategies:

  • CareerReady ATL, a new effort to demonstrate and expand apprenticeship opportunities in the Greater Atlanta region that focuses on young people of color who are furthest from opportunity and ensures they have multiple pathways to economic well-being and self-sufficiency; and
  • Grant funding and coordination with partners in the areas of academic support, pathways to careers, college planning, secure housing and basic needs

Atlanta Regional Collaborative for Health Improvement (ARCHI) will further UWGA’s strategies by engaging young people, educators, employers and other partners.

To learn more about Thrive by 25, click here.

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Talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. At United Way of Greater Atlanta we are working to create opportunity for our community’s youth.

Meet Hannah and Hanna to understand how zip code can determine a child’s potential.

Like Hanna, today in Greater Atlanta, nearly 500,000 children live in communities lacking the basic opportunities and resources needed for them and their families to thrive.

June 9th, you can help change that.

Access to food, shelter and transportation is fundamental for children to learn and thrive. Families building financial literacy skills, access to job training and affordable healthcare creates economic stability and equitable growth in the most challenged communities.

#UnitedGivingDay is the opportunity for you to help children, families, and communities thrive. Join individuals, local communities, and corporations for 24 hours of giving to help children, families, and communities throughout Greater Atlanta in need.

In one day, YOU can make a difference. In one day, YOU can impact a lives.

United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Child Well-Being mission is to ensure every child and family have equitable opportunities and access to resources to reach their full potential regardless of race or zip code. You can support #UnitedGivingDay by donating to United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Child Well-Being Mission Fund, one of four Child Well-Being Investment Priority Areas, or to the 2-1-1, Contact Center, which connects individuals and families with the community-based resources they need to survive and thrive.

Join us now or on June 9 for Giving Day! You can even host your own fundraiser on social and help spread the word. And if you or someone you know needs help, visit here, or text your zip code and need to 898-211 or dial 211.

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United Way of Greater Atlanta is on a journey to improve the lives of children and families throughout the Greater Atlanta area. Nearly half a million children in our region live in communities with low or very low child well-being. Through our Child Well-Being Mission Fund, we invest in nonprofit partners that provide the supports necessary to strengthen the community. We recognize that it takes many different nonprofit partners to meet the complex needs of families. In January, we opened a request for proposals for our 2022 Child Well Being Mission Fund with grant awards being announced in May. For this round of investments, we focused on new nonprofit partners with targeted funding opportunities for small; grassroots; and Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC)-led organizations. Overall, the median budget size for the organizations funded was $550,000. We also debuted organizational capacity building opportunities to provide partners with an opportunity to strengthen their organizational processes in order to undergird their programmatic efforts. Overall, 88% of the organizations funded have a budget size of under $2,000,000 and more than half of those receiving grant awards are BIPOC organizations.

“I am very impressed with the intentionality and thoughtfulness during this open request for proposals, and how amazing it is to be able to transition our investments in this way,” says Angel Maldonado, Co-Chair, Community Impact Committee. I know the team has been working extremely hard. I am really inspired that new organizations had the chance to receive funding, and I love the fact that even for those that didn’t get a chance to be funded in this round, the team will continue to work with them and continue to be a resource to them.”

United Way received a total of 122 applications to review across all investment portfolio areas. After a thorough review of each application, United Way is pleased to announce that 32 applicants were awarded grants ranging from $25,000 – $150,000 under the following strategies:

  • Strong Learners:
    • Build Reading Skills – 4 grants
    • Increase Healthcare Navigation – 1 grant
  • College and Career Ready:
    • Career Pathway – 2 grants
  • Economic Stability:
    • Secure Housing – 1 grant
    • Basic Needs and Equitable Access – 6 grants
    • Build Wealth – 6 grants
  • Brighter Future:
    • Strengthen Resident Leadership & Learning – 3 grants
    • Community Organizing & Civic Engagement – 3 grants
  • Capacity Building:
    • Organizational Capacity Building​ – 5 grants
    • Resiliency Planning Capacity Building – 1 grant


In this funding cycle, investments were also made through our strategic partnership with the Georgia Division of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) to address learning loss​ through our College and Career Ready investment portfolio area. Those grant awards are scheduled to be announced by the end of May,” says Mary Benton, Co-Chair Community Impact Committee. I participated as an independent reviewer for grant applications in this open request for proposals. It was very interesting to be able to see the application process and what United Way is asking of the organizations in order to gauge if they will be a good fit to help us reach our goals. I was very impressed with the process and was happy to do it.”

Putting our community’s children on an equitable path to fulfilling their potential requires us to work together toward a single, shared agenda. United Way knows that together, we can ensure this is an equitable, thriving community. That is the work of the Child Well-Being Mission Fund.  For more information on the grant awards for our open request for proposals or to donate to the child well-being mission fund, please click here.

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United Way of Greater Atlanta is on a journey to improve the lives of children and families throughout the Greater Atlanta area. Nearly half a million children in our region live in communities with low or very low child well-being. Through our Child Well-Being Mission Fund, we invest in nonprofit partners that provide the supports necessary to strengthen the community. We recognize that it takes many different nonprofit partners to meet the complex needs of families.

In January, we opened a request for proposals for our 2022 Child Well Being Mission Fund with grant awards being announced in May. For this round of investments, we focused on new nonprofit partners with targeted funding opportunities for small; grassroots; and Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC)-led organizations. Each of the Requests for Proposals (RFPs) identified specific strategies that we are looking to fund within each Investment Priority area: Strong Learners, College and Career Ready, Economic Stability and Brighter Future. In addition, the fifth priority area addressed was Capacity Building to address significant operational and/or programmatic impacts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grantees for the Learning Loss grant will be announced later this month. If you have questions about our RFP process, please submit them here

Grantees: Strong Learners

Leap for Literacy | Strategy: Build Reading Skills | Award: $50,000

The Bonner Office for Civic Engagement  | Strategy: Build Reading Skills | Award: $50,000

Fayette FACTOR | Strategy: Healthcare Navigation | Award: $25,000

Family Heritage Foundation Inc. | Strategy: Build Reading Skills | Award: $25,000

Share the Magic Foundation, Inc. | Strategy: Build Reading Skills | Award: $50,000


Grantees: College and Career Ready

Cobb Works | Strategy: Expand Career Pathways| Award: $75,000

Strive Atlanta | Strategy: Expand Career Pathways | Award: $100,000


Grantees: Economic Stability

Amani Women Center  | Strategy: Build Wealth | Award: $40,000

On the Rise Community Development, Inc. | Strategy: Build Wealth | Award: $35,000

Rainbow Village | Strategy: Build Wealth | Award: $40,000

Refugee Family Assistance Program | Strategy: Build Wealth | Award: $25,000

S.H.A.R.E House | Strategy: Secure Housing | Award: $50,000

Youth Empowerment Success Services | Strategy: Build Wealth | Award: $35,000

Zion Hill Community Development Center | Strategy: Build Wealth | Award: $35,000

Community Farmers Markets  | Strategy: Basic Needs & Equitable Access | Award: $35,000

Concrete Jungle  | Strategy: Basic Needs & Equitable Access | Award: $35,000

Focused Community Strategies | Strategy: Basic Needs & Equitable Access | Award: $35,000

HABESHA, Inc. | Strategy: Basic Needs & Equitable Access | Award: $35,000

The Common Market Southeast | Strategy: Basic Needs & Equitable Access | Award: $35,000

The Pittsburgh Collaborative | Strategy: Basic Needs & Equitable Access | Award: $35,000


Grantees: Brighter Future

Canopy Atlanta | Strategy: Strengthen Resident Leadership & Learning | Award: $35,000

Clarkston Community Center Foundation | Strategy: Strengthen Resident Leadership & Learning | Award: $60,000

EndState ATL | Strategy: Community Organizing & Civic Engagement | Award: $50,000

YouthServ360 | Strategy: Strengthen Resident Leadership & Learning | Award: $125,000

Housing Justice League | Strategy: Community Organizing & Civic Engagement | Award: $125,000

Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University (HEART) | Strategy: Community Led Solutions | Award: $300,000*

*This grant is funded in partnership with the Jesse Parker Williams Foundation 


Grantees: Capacity Building

Grove Park Foundation | Strategy: Organizational Capacity Building | Award: $50,000

Showcase Group | Strategy: Organizational Capacity Building | Award: $25,000

Common Good Atlanta | Strategy: Organizational Capacity Building | Award: $25,000

Just Bakery of Atlanta | Strategy: Organizational Capacity Building | Award: $25,000

Together Friends Organization | Strategy: Organizational Capacity Building | Award: $25,000

Georgia Center for Nonprofits – GCN  | Resiliency Planning Capacity Building | Award: $71,250



As seen through the United Way’s Child Well-Being Index, literacy rates in our region are unconscionably tied to zip code, race, and ethnicity – keeping equity and justice out of reach for so many. After two disrupted school years, the need has never been greater or the stakes higher.

Our brains are naturally wired to speak; they are not naturally wired to read and write. Scientific research has shown how children learn to read and how they should be taught and engaged from day one. But many caregivers and educators don’t know the science. As a result, millions of kids are being set up to fail.

Through the Strong Learners investment priority area, United Way has partnered with the Rollins Center for Language and Literacy as part of Literacy and Justice for All movement to eradicate illiteracy by investing in the Science of Reading from birth through 3rd grade. Literacy & Justice for All is an initiative to bring the science to children within a community by reaching children through the adults who serve them, prenatal through third grade.

Literacy and Justice for All partners are working to ensure child-facing adults have the knowledge, skills, and agency to implement:

  • Healthy brain development in pre-natal care
  • Language and literacy best practices in birth through age 5 care
  • The science of reading instruction in Kindergarten through 3rd grade

Initially activated in Marietta and now in Atlanta, the work is designed to serve as a role model for towns and communities throughout the region. Anyone can implement the practices through Cox Campus courses and resources – created for child-facing adults of children from prenatal care providers through third-grade reading teachers.

Some partners include Rollins Center for Language & Literacy, Marietta City Schools, KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools, Learn4Life, Cobb Collaborative, Kennesaw State University, Quality Care for Children, the YMCA of Metro Atlanta, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital and Grady Hospital.

Through these partnerships we continuously monitor, to determine what’s working for whom and under what conditions. Our collective goal is not to “beat the odds” for a small number of children, but to change the odds for every child. Through reading, we become the people we are meant to be – and every child deserves that opportunity so they can experience the equity and justice afforded through universal literacy.


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At United Way of Greater Atlanta, we are focused on the well-being of children, families and communities across Greater Atlanta. When you are able to say that children are doing well in the community, it’s a great indicator that those communities – in turn – are doing well.

Early childhood providers have played a critical role during the pandemic as essential workers – staying open when others closed to ensure children were in safe and quality early learning experience so their families could work. And the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated existing disparities in childcare. Years of underinvestment in childcare met with the challenges of the pandemic underscore the difficulty in accessing high-quality childcare.

That’s why our partnership with organizations like the Black Child Development Institute (BCDI) are so important.

The early childhood development community plays a key role in driving United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Child Well-Being Index both in terms of employment and economic mobility as a significant workforce in our state, but also for their role in supporting early language and literacy driving 3rd grade reading.

Given that early childhood education experiences are the first experiences that children have of education outside the home, curricula and values that empower children’s identity and values, and uphold their rights, are of paramount importance. And building leadership capacity within the early childhood profession is essential as the profession is forced to constantly shift due to changing educational, socio-political, health and economic demands.

The early childhood workforce consists of 40% Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), which for many childcare centers, is not representative of the population served. Educators of color tend to hold higher expectations of children of color and are less likely to misdiagnose them as special needs. We are supporting the work to not only increasing the diversity of the early childhood workforce in general, but more specifically early childhood leadership.

Leadership sets the tone and more early childhood leaders of color are needed to ensure that children are cared for in culturally responsive environments. In this challenging time for staffing for early childhood centers, having leadership that reflects the workforce is also important when it comes to recruitment and retention.

Recruitment and retention through knowledge and capacity building, promotion and succession planning will shape a cadre of professionals who can lead and advocate for more culturally responsive policies and practices that are reflective of the children and families they serve.

Learn more about United Way of Greater Atlanta and the Black Child Development Institute (BCDI).


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For individuals, families, and communities across metro Atlanta, the impacts of COVID-19 have left us feeling stressed, anxious, and struggling to cope. When we think about the impacts COVID-19 on children and adolescents across our region, we are also grappling with the increased vulnerability this pandemic has placed on the mental well-being of our youngest population.

At the height of the pandemic, children endured shifts to their education, social isolation from family and friends, and postponement of meaningful activities: family vacations, sports and club activities, and other social activities. Children were forced to adjust and reimage how they celebrated milestones – we witnessed proms and graduations go virtual; we watched children and young adults shared their frustrations with the world on social media. We also witnessed how children responded to the racial and social injustices happening in our country, all while having to adhere to public health guidelines on social distancing.

In a recent issue brief by the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 25% of high school students reported worsened emotional and cognitive health because of the pandemic. Over 20% of parents with children ages 5-12 reported similar conditions for their children. While there have been provisions to maintain, or in many cases increase mental health services for children through telehealth services, there was a significant decrease in access to mental health services, as many of these interventions were provided in school settings.

United Way of Greater Atlanta has been a long-standing champion of behavioral and mental health, and school-based mental health services. Over the last 7 years, our investments have supported behavioral health providers, such as Odyssey Family Counseling Center, to render services in communities across South Fulton and through school-based interventions in Fulton County Schools. Under United Way’s Brighter Future Strategy, Community Driven Innovation, our investments helped to create a space where organizations could shift their service delivery models to meet varying needs of the community in real time – and this proved critical during the height of the pandemic. Charles Releford, executive director at Odyssey reflects on the work his organization during this time:

The provision of mental health services went through a series of changes throughout COVID -19 and its variants.  Agencies like ours had to pivot quickly and get creative in delivering services.  Initially, all services went from the familiar face-to-face format to a much less familiar virtual format. It has been off putting, to say the least, for both provider and consumer.  Overlay that dynamic with the behavior profile of a middle school child with attention deficit disorder and you get a very different picture. We have settled on a hybrid model utilizing both approaches.  Clinicians have been very creative and exhibited an extreme amount of dedication.  

Nationally, we are amid the “great resignation” in all fields of endeavor. Many of our clinicians have felt overwhelmed with the serious increase in demand and the related uncertainty of the world at large and have left the profession.  Here at Odyssey, we try to stress “self-care” for our clinicians and have even instituted an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for those who may need it. The advent of COVID may force us as service providers to continue to evolve to meet the ever-increasing need.  The one-hour therapy session every other week may be over.  Shorter more frequent sessions are proving more impactful.  We will continue to listen to our community, students, and parents to offer the most comprehensive therapy and supportive services.

As we navigate a new world with COVID-19, we must collectively prioritize the mental well-being of our children. This comes with the recognition that we must also address the impacts racism and discrimination as part of this prioritization. We must also center the mental well-being of parents and caregivers. Through United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Child Well-Being Mission Fund and the United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund, we have an opportunity to address racial inequities, make investments in communities of greatest need and support organizations, like Odyssey Family Counseling Center, to use their voice to amplify the concerns of the community, increase access point for behavioral and mental health services, such as early mental health screenings and interventions, expand resiliency and wellness efforts, and other strategies that create positive connections for young people. Together, we can do more.

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United Way of Greater Atlanta’s African-American Partnership (AAP) was launched in 2000 by community champions Conchita Robinson and Charles Stephens. AAP is a group of donors with shared affinities for philanthropy, leadership and service. The group was created to engage underrepresented members of United Way giving societies. In the first five years, AAP realized a 75% membership increase because of partnerships with previously untouched groups, including African-American small business owners. AAP also includes others who support the mission. Additionally, AAP engages members through volunteerism and advocacy, and offers ongoing opportunities for personal and professional development.

To put our community’s children on an equitable path to fulfilling their potential, we must improve the services and systems that support our children, their families, and the communities they grow up in. All young people require support to develop into successful adults and engaged citizens. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated systemic inequities and barriers that Greater Atlanta’s youth and families face in their daily lives. According to a recent study, “Quantifying the Impact of COVID-19 School Closures on Metro Atlanta Student Proficiency,” about 21,000 fewer students in English language arts and 29,000 fewer in math are now on track for grade-level proficiency in Metro Atlanta.

AAP’s signature program Powering the Potential is committed to improving outcomes for African American boys and young men in the Greater Atlanta area, through partnerships that will bridge the college and career readiness gap through increased academic supports, educational opportunities, and pathways to employment for middle and high school boys of color. United Way of Greater Atlanta’s College and Career Ready investment priority aims to improve the college and career readiness for 15,000 youth in very low and low Child Well-Being communities. Youth can graduate from high school ready for higher education and high-growth careers by improving their academic outcomes with access to afterschool and summer experiences, leadership development, employability skills and planning for future careers.

Addressing the achievement gap includes ensuring youth have access to high- quality learning and support services both in and out of the traditional school day as well as exposure to what is possible. United Way of Greater Atlanta and AAP’s efforts began with a laser focus on literacy and has expanded to providing over 1,059 boys and young men with additional learning opportunities targeted to support youth’s overall academic achievement and future success.

To support these efforts, please volunteer to support AAP’s Dream Bigger initiative, or register for the 6th Annual AAP Leadership Luncheon.

To help support United Way of Greater Atlanta’s work to address the root causes of racial inequities, to create a region where every person can reach their full potential, click here to donate to the Racial Equity and Healing Fund.

Learn more about AAP here.

By Katrina D. Mitchell, Chief Community Impact Officer – United Way of Greater Atlanta and Erica Fener Sitkoff, Ph.D., Executive Director – VOICES for Georgia’s Children

While much news these days focuses on COVID-19 — cases, hospitalizations, deaths, masks, vaccinations, and variants — other challenges, which existed well before the pandemic, are finally getting the attention they are due. This pandemic has forced a reckoning with Georgia’s long-standing systemic and logistical barriers to food, shelter, education, childcare and mental and physical health, to name a few. Consider these numbers:

Of the 2.5 million children in Georgia ages 0-18,

  • 377,000 are food insecure,
  • 420,000 did not have a dental check-up in the last 12 months, and
  • 78,000 students in 6th – 12th grade reported having seriously considered attempting suicide.

To be clear, however, the problem is not lack of attention and investment from government agencies, non-profit organizations, and the private sector.  Many of us have spent years analyzing these issues, developing and implementing programs based on evidence and data, and advocating for policy and practice changes that would help kids and their caregivers.  The problem is that we just weren’t close to being “finished” before the onslaught of the pandemic.

“Even though many of these challenges are not new, the pandemic has pushed more and more families into or precariously close to the brink; and we know that public and private systems need ideas, monies and effective communication to help our fellow Georgians through this trying era,” said Katina Asbell, Chair of the Public Policy Committee and a member of the UWGA Board of Directors.

Now here we are, going into 2022, and COVID remains pervasive.  What now?

In a lot of ways, we have surprised ourselves with our flexibility and resourcefulness.  School bus drivers delivered food, people accessed mental health care by phone, and while not necessarily elegant, people pretty much figured out how to use Zoom.

Additionally, many of us found ourselves in new or revitalized partnerships, most often with a shared urgency to help each other help families. Voices for Georgia’s Children and the United Way of Greater Atlanta is one such alliance. We have joined forces to advocate for a comprehensive policy agenda under the Gold Dome this legislative session and beyond.

This is not surprising, considering both organizations approach the work holistically – focusing on what we call “whole child policy.” We understand that a child does not live or learn in silos or sectors, and that decisions made in one area of a child’s life or development can influence outcomes in another.  For instance, it is now common knowledge that a child truly cannot learn when hungry or struggling with mental health, that isolation to keep kids safe from COVID-19 can also create barriers to getting proper dental care and necessary check-ups with pediatricians, and that a lack of childcare not only prevents children from learning what they need to be school-ready but can also make it hard for their parents to maintain employment. It is critical that Georgia’s policies and laws reflect such dynamics. United Way of Greater Atlanta’s 2022 Public Policy Agenda with its focus on improving child well-being by working together towards a single, shared agenda to put our community’s children on an equitable path to fulfilling their potential, paves the way.

“We have been great allies in the policy space for years,” says Asbell, “but now we are working even closer. The beauty of that is that we can each use our networks to dovetail advocacy on all those things that we both know need fixing.”

Click here to learn more about United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Child Well Being Agenda.


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