Thursday, September 29, 2011

Outside the School Doors

Our students are in school 35-40 hours a week and we spend only a couple hours with them during this time.  What makes our jobs so difficult is what goes on in those hours outside of school.  We are confidence that our kids nurtured in school, but once they leave, we’re no longer in control of what happens in their lives.

One in two of our students live in extreme poverty.  While some live in nearby housing developments, less fortunate families frequently move between shelters.  A family might start off in a nearby shelter but get relocated to a different shelter farther away. Constant movement puts stress on the students as their commutes become long, sometimes close to two hours, and their home life is continual upheaval.

Family structures can be challenging as well.  It’s very difficult for us to get a clear picture of what the child’s living situation is like.  Gang violence, domestic abuse, drugs and incarceration are extremely common.  A mother might tell us that her husband is at work, but from the child we learn that dad has been in jail for the last 6 months.

The teachers are amazing here.  Many have been here for years and the love they have for teaching and their students is amazing.  However, regardless of how engaging the lessons are or how many times a teacher drills those multiplication tables into their heads, students cannot be successful academically if they are tired, hungry or scared.  Through our program we strive to make our school a positive family environment where students can feel safe and know that there are adults they can go to for help in their lives.  Our goal is to give students the skills to cope with their lives outside of the school building. We work with all the people who touch our students’ lives – parents, teachers, and school administrators – to understand the barriers to success in our students’ lives and to find ways to address these issues.

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