The Tennessee Justice Center is honoring Astra Vaughan as a 2021 Mother of the Year for her dedication to her children and her advocacy efforts for Pandemic-EBT on behalf of the children and families in her community.
Astra was born and raised in Memphis, TN. She is married to Nathanial Vaughan Jr., who serves Shelby County as a police officer. They have four daughters—a seven-year-old, a set of five-year-old twins, and a fourteen-year-old. For Astra, “the most important thing to me is my role as a mother and protecting my girls and my family.”
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, all four of Astra’s children have been doing virtual at-home learning through Shelby County Schools. For over a year now, Astra’s home has doubled as a school to make sure that her daughters were able to continue their education, which she considers to be one of the most valuable opportunities in their household. To accommodate the girls’ school schedules, Astra and her husband have had to alter their work schedules; as a result, Astra works during the day and her husband has been doing night shifts with the police department. Occasionally, when her husband’s shift is extended into the morning, Astra, who is a dental technician, will have to take off work so that she can stay home with the girls and start their school day. One of Astra’s twins has autism and needs special accommodations for her virtual learning experience. Astra said, “Virtual learning has been the hardest part of COVID, especially for our daughter with special needs. But we were lucky that we were able to keep our jobs throughout the pandemic.”
Astra explained that one of the most difficult parts of virtual learning was the dramatic increase in the amount of money she was spending weekly on food for her family. She said, “Since virtual learning started, our costs for food increased like crazy. It has been really hard.” For Astra’s family, pandemic-EBT became an important part of ensuring that her daughters were able to learn as well as they were able to during normal in-person learning. Astra explained how the P-EBT program has helped a lot of people who do not necessarily qualify for SNAP or other programs. She said, “being eligible for and participating in P-EBT makes us feel like we are important, like we are being looked at.”
When P-EBT first started, Astra was doing as much as she could to spread the word among her community; she even interviewed with the press to advocate for the program. Astra said, “I was telling everyone I knew about the program. I knew it had the potential to help so many families.” When she first contacted TJC in October of 2020, Astra was missing several round one and round two P-EBT cards for her girls. We worked with her to make sure that she was connected to her missing cards. Astra said, “TJC has been in my corner throughout the entire P-EBT process.”
For her dedication to education and nutrition access throughout the pandemic, The Tennessee Justice Center honors Astra as a 2021 Mother of the Year for her tireless work for her family and for families all throughout her community.
Photo Credit: John St.Clair