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INSIDE ACCESS AND OPPORT NIT SCHOLARSHIP O ERCOMING AD ERSIT A ST DENT S PERSPECTI E 1 AND Photo, MORE Getty Images


ENVISION EQUITY HOMELESS EDUCATION EDITION 2020

Introduction By Anissa Elliott Lanier—Access & Opportunity Unit

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would like to introduce myself as the new Foster Care Liaison at Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS). My background includes nearly 20 years of service in School Social Work. I have worked in many departments, and I look forward to serving students in this new capacity. The previous Foster Care Liaison did an amazing job putting Foster Care on the map, and I am excited about moving forward. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) outlines protections for all youth in foster care. As the new Foster Care Liaison, creating educational stability for foster care students in JCPS will be a priority. Students in foster care are entitled to stay at their school of origin, regardless of any change that may occur in their foster care placement. A Best Interest Determination (BID) is required before a student in foster care changes schools. Creating awareness about ESSA and facilitating BID meetings are just a couple of ways I can work with JCPS staff to ensure that ESSA is implemented and youth in foster care are more successful. JCPS students in foster care face many unique challenges. As Foster Care Liaison, one of my goals will be to protect the confidentiality of youth in foster care. When students leave foster care and return to the home of their family of origin, all signs that they were in foster care should be removed. Former guardians and foster parents should no longer have access to Parent Portal or School Messenger, receive mail, etc. Attention to these small details makes a huge difference with regard to maintaining FERPA compliance and preserving the dignity of birth parents. I want to thank my JCPS family in advance for partnering with me to accomplish the goals I have set. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve students and families in my new role. It is an honor and a privilege. Anissa Elliott Lanier | (502) 485-6354 | anissa.lanier@jefferson.kyschools.us 2


ENVISION EQUITY HOMELESS EDUCATION EDITION 2020

LET ME INTRODUCE MYSELF By Erin Mitchell—Access & Opportunity Unit

My name is Erin Mitchell, and I recently have joined the Diversity, Equity and Poverty Department with JCPS. I am quite excited for the opportunity to work with this team and for this cause. Until I was 10, my father was in the Navy, and we lived in Norfolk, VA, and Jacksonville, FL, during that time. Due to the military’s being more diverse than the general population, I was exposed to people from so many walks of life, and even as a small child I was fascinated by people who were different from me. This has continued into adulthood, and I believe made me someone who can empathize with almost anyone. Also, it has fueled my desire to travel the world, as evidenced by the many cruises that my husband, Mike, and I have taken over the years. I still haven’t been to Europe, Asia, or Africa, unfortunately, but they are on my bucket list. I want to at least see a tiny corner of each of those continents. Until then, I read lots of books and hang out with my high-energy nieces to meet my need for adventure. I started my career as a public servant when, in 2005, I was hired as a Team Secretary on the Adoption Unit within the Department of Community Based Services (DCBS). I had always felt that the jobs I held previously were lacking somehow. I wanted to be a part of something that made a real difference in the world, and I found that in working with those in need.  I was promoted several times over my approximately 14 years with DCBS, and working with underprivileged populations continued to drive me to be vigilant in my work. I left DCBS in 2019, and while the new position was ok, it wasn’t fulfilling in the way I was used to. I felt my heart being pulled back to my days with DCBS and working for those populations. When COVID hit, that was my aha! moment, and I knew I had to get back to where I belonged. When I saw the position posting for the Diversity, Equity, and Poverty Department, and I knew it was the right one for me. Luckily, the interview panel agreed! I look forward to serving our children, youth, and families, and I am delighted to be a part of this very important work. 

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ENVISION EQUITY HOMELESS EDUCATION EDITION 2020

ACCESS AND OPPORTUNITY SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATION Perspectives From a Former JCPS Student

By a JCPS Student

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y name is Quincy D. Boyd. I am applying for this scholarship to assist with my college expenses. My plan is to attend one of the colleges I have applied to which are Georgetown College, Kentucky State University, University of Louisville or Sullivan University. I am interested in Architecture and my goal is to major in Graphic Design. I am very good in art and I love to draw. I have art work that my grandmother has framed and put up in her house.  Because I am creative and like to design things I draw creative things, people and buildings. I currently am attending Waggener High School as a senior to graduate in May, 2020.  I Continued on next page 4


ENVISION EQUITY HOMELESS EDUCATION EDITION 2020

was on the football team for four years, track team and wrestling team this year. Although I enjoyed the sports I want my college experience to focus on my academics. When I was a toddler, I got some kind of flesh-eating disease that was eating at my head from the inside out and they could not figure out what it was.  I was in isolation in the hospital. I could have died from this disease.  Finally a doctor came with a medical procedure and it started healing. I finally got to go home from the hospital. When it healed it left some bald spots in my head. My mom and grandmother said don’t worry about that because they were just glad that I lived and did not die. When I was in the fifth grade at Field Elementary School some kids would make fun of my head.  One day some boys hit me in my head when I was in the restroom with the class. I told the teacher but it seemed like she didn’t do anything about it. It kept happening, so I stopped going in the restroom with the class. One day on the school bus a kid kept hitting me in my head on the bald spots until it was bleeding. I kept moving my head but he kept hitting me in my head.  When I got home I did not tell anybody but my grandmother noticed it was bleeding. When I told her what happened she talked to the school about it and they talked to the student about the incident.  Since it was a few days before the end of the school year, I did not have anyone else hitting me in the head. I used to be ashamed about it and would wear a hat whenever I could. Now I have learned to live with it and realize that I can be proud to look at myself as handsome and intelligent. The marks in my head are not important, but how I feel is important. I feel good about myself as I realize I have a life ahead of me to make the best of it. During middle school, I struggled a little trying to focus on my education and still wanting to fit in. I did not have my dad to support me in sports so it wasn’t until I was in the eighth grade that the coach invited me to play football. I liked football and Coach Ross became my mentor and support. That encouraged me to want to play football when I went to Waggener High School. When I became a part of the Waggener High School football team it gave me friends. That helped my self-esteem. I would not talk much to anybody but now I am much better at communicating with people. My freshman year I played Offense and Defense. That year I lost 50 pounds and for the next three years I played center position on the team. On the wrestling team I feel I have been able to relieve stress in a positive way. I won several matches and qualified for the district competition. I liked wrestling but I’m not interested in making a career of it. My mother passed away in during my sophomore year in high school and that left a very deep void in my heart. I loved my mom and she loved me and my brother. She was always smiling and Continued on next page

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ENVISION EQUITY HOMELESS EDUCATION EDITION 2020

made me laugh. The football team showed their caring by coming to the visitation at the funeral home. My father has never been in my life as a presence nor a support. I am fortunate that my grandparents are my guardian and support my food housing and transportation. I feel safe and loved. I know they love me and I feel blessed to have them. I feel strongly that I must attend college to get a degree for a job that I can support myself as an adult. That is why college is so important for me. My school grades have been good because I am a hard worker.  My GPA has been above 3.0 for my four years of high school. I am very, very good with art drawing and I love art. I feel I have worked hard to maintain good grades so I can qualify for a scholarship. One thing I remember my mom telling me is “Quincy get your education so you can get a good job and take care of yourself.” My mom would be proud of me to know that I am going to college. As an African American male, I know that there are a lot of distractions to discourage me and others from attending college. Sometimes there is a belief that we would rather run the streets or sell drugs for quick money rather that work for an education and get a career job. I want to do this to make my family proud and be successful for myself. I know that going to college is expensive and I will be as independent living.  I hope to get assistance with my tuition through F.A.S.F.A however books are very costly and I will have housing expenses. Receiving a scholarship will lessen the stress of college expenses and less for me to worry about and rather focus on my education. I will use the scholarship for books and part of housing at the college campus. For you to provide me with a scholarship, you will make a good investment in me and my success. Thank you for taking time to consider my essay and I look forward to hearing from you.

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ENVISION EQUITY HOMELESS EDUCATION EDITION 2020


ENVISION EQUITY HOMELESS EDUCATION EDITION 2020

HOW DOES ACCESS AND OPPORTUNITY OPERATE DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC? By Julie McCullough—Access and Opportunity Unit

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his year has been a unique, challenging, and sometimes heartbreaking experience for all of us. Unfortunately, the pandemic has created instability for many families across Louisville as loved ones have been lost and business have been shuttered. With COVID relief funds beginning to run dry, we are expecting to see even greater impacts as the end of the year progresses. Despite these challenges, Access and Opportunity has continued working hard to identify families in

need and provide support. Regrettably, we have had to cut back some services, such as our food and hygiene pantry and our Winter Adopt-aFamily Program. While we could not make these programs work when they are needed most, in many cases we were able to meet the needs of our families. As preparations for fall classes began, our staff worked diligently to identify students experiencing homelessness and provide services. Continued on next page 8


ENVISION EQUITY HOMELESS EDUCATION EDITION 2020

Our efforts began in July when we collaborated with case managers from every shelter and transitional housing program in Louisville. These case managers worked with their families to complete a needs assessment, thereby ensuring that each student would be able to return to their school from the previous year or enroll in a school associated with the address where they were staying. We were also able to work with the 15th District Parent Teacher Association (PTA) Clothing Assistance Program (CAP) to ensure that each student received new uniforms, shoes, and undergarments. Bus requests were submitted for each of these student in preparation for in-person learning. Chromebooks and internet hotspots were also ordered to ensure that virtual learning would be facilitated. Finally, our staff worked with JCPS teachers and shelter staff to establish an extended learning virtual hub for all students living in shelter. Preparing our district to identify and support McKinney-Vento-eligible students also requires training throughout the district. Our office normally holds an in-person training conference to ensure that each school in the district has a McKinney-Vento-trained liaison before the school year begins. This year, our office held three independent days of training over Zoom until each school in the district had a trained liaison. With students attending virtual classes, identifying students experiencing housing instability could be much more challenging, and it is likely that a school’s McKinney-Vento liaison may never come in contact with the student. Therefore, for the first time ever, our office worked with an outside contractor to provide an online video training platform for any staff member who would likely come in contact with students and their families. This included administrators, teachers, front desk staff, etc. With the help of school liaisons, we were able to train more than 6,500 school staff about the identification, rights, and support of McKinney-Ventoeligible students. Despite all our efforts in district training and reaching out to community partners, our most significant challenge this year has been identifying students experiencing homelessness and needing support. In a normal academic year, schools would collect paper copies of residency forms completed by a parent or guardian for each student. Then the forms are sorted and delivered to our office by the school McKinney-Vento liaison. This allows both the school and our district staff to identify and support our students in need of significant support. However, with the pandemic this year, we have had to complete all identification digitally. This has required creativity and flexibility at both the school and district level. While this has been, at times, a challenging process for all involved, we believe our combined efforts will result in the McKinney-Vento rights and services for the students who need it most.  Ensuring that eligible students are provided with McKinney-Vento rights and services is one of the most significant aspects of our mission in the Access and Opportunity Department. Therefore, amidst Continued on next page


ENVISION EQUITY HOMELESS EDUCATION EDITION 2020

all of the training and identification, our office has continued to provide services and support. We communicate daily with school staff and community partners to link families to critical resources, such as the 15th District PTA CAP, Coalition for the Homeless (Prevention and Diversion), Neighborhood Place, and even the COVID-19 eviction-prevention program (stopmyeviction.org). We also speak to parents, youth, and case managers daily about student rights under McKinney-Vento federal law. This includes assistance with enrollments in accordance with the law. With countless emails and phone calls and multiple hours spent on Zoom every day, sometimes twice a day, our team has been working collaboratively to continue our mission of providing McKinneyVento rights and services to students across Jefferson County. While our office prepared for a monitoring visit from the Kentucky Department of Education, our primary efforts this fall have always been identifying and supporting McKinney-Vento students and families. There is no down time for the office of Access and Opportunity during a worldwide pandemic. Finally, we would like to send a shout-out to our school McKinney-Vento liaisons. We could not do this work without you!

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ENVISION EQUITY HOMELESS EDUCATION EDITION 2020

A Supportive Partnership for Families By Julie McCullough—Access and Opportunity Unit

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ne of the most common questions asked of the Access and Opportunity Office is, “Do you help with housing?” The answer is no, our office does not have the ability to directly house families. However, our office does make referrals to community resources for support. The most common resource we refer to for shelter and housing is the Coalition for the Homeless. Coalition for the Homeless is the Single Point of Entry (SPE) for all shelter space in Louisville. This means that families must call (502) 637-2337 in order to reserve a family shelter space or to be added to the wait list.   Within the Coalition for the Homeless, there is a small team of hard-working staff who provide onthe-spot, strengths-based case management for families and individuals facing the most challenging housing situations. This team is called the Prevention and Diversion Team. A staff member from this team will review the family’s case and assess resources available to the family, including family, friends, church, community resources, etc. Sometimes, they are able to help the family use available resources to improve their housing situation quickly. In other cases, they will work with a family for a couple of months until the family enters a shelter or another supportive program.   While the Access and Opportunity Office does not have the ability to directly house a family or place them in shelter, we work closely with the Prevention and Diversion team to support families and youth in the most vulnerable situations. While there are challenges, which include confidentiality, if staff in our office become aware of a family who is in a vulnerable living situation, we will speak with the parent or guardian. We ask the guardian or unaccompanied youth (18 or older) to call Coalition for the Homeless and request to be put on the wait list. Then, our office will email or call Prevention and Diversion. With permission from the family, we share key information that allows us to work together on the same critical case. We are able to open a dialogue about the family and the resources they have been or will be referred to. This partnership is beneficial and rewarding for the families as they progress toward an improved housing situation. A rewarding day for all involved is when the family or unaccompanied youth become stabilized.  

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ENVISION EQUITY HOMELESS EDUCATION EDITION 2020

KNOW YOUR ROLE!

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s a teacher, flexibility is something that I felt I always had. Teaching requires so much more than helping our students become book smart, and being able to switch from teacher to conflict mediator is definitely a skill that has come in handy for many of us. Since the onset of the pandemic, teachers have had to adapt to a completely new way of teaching. Rather than walking into a classroom every morning, we now shuffle over to our at-home office space and set up our laptops for the day. Instead of being able to see our students, we oftentimes only see boxes with their initials in them. This transition has been a difficult one, but I am amazed at how well we all have adjusted without By Barry Finley—JCPS Employee missing a beat. On top of helping our students learn and master the curriculum, we now, more than ever, should continue to help them stay positive and motivated through this difficult time. I'm sure many of us have experienced more challenges than we can count at this point, but it is the journey that makes the final destination all that more rewarding. One of the biggest challenges that I have faced throughout Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) is maintaining high attendance and participation from my students. Because of the impact that the pandemic has had on students (e.g., COVID-19 illness, family unemployment, lack of supervision), I have had to strike a balance between wanting students in class and giving them the flexibility and space needed to navigate this difficult time. Checking in on students who I notice are missing and showing them and their families compassion and support is what has helped me encourage student participation while developing and maintaining relationships with them. Student success and accountability is important, but it takes reflection and creativity on behalf of the educator to provide meaningful and intentional support. For example, some students are upset because they can no longer see their classmates and friends in person. Other students become upset or lose interest when their wi-fi connection is slow, preventing them from completing their assignments. Then there’s the student who simply doesn’t want to be there because they never felt engaged in school. Finding equitable ways to motivate each kid, keep them engaged, and make them smile is how we meet students where they are. At any given time, I may break out in song, tell a joke, or reference a recent kids’ movie just to get a laugh. It is these moments that show our students that we care, and keeping this in mind is what helps me continue to put in the work to make this unprecedented experience as positive as possible. 12


ENVISION EQUITY HOMELESS EDUCATION EDITION 2020

OVERCOMING ADVERSITY By Lily Hoang—JCPS Student

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y mother babysat kids for a living when I was growing up as a child. Not just simply one or two or three kids. Nope.

She babysat around eight to twelve kids a day. My dad has a history of strokes ever since I was born, so my mom eventually became the breadwinner of the family. I grew up around my mom’s babysitting antics for the longest time. Once I turned four, I started my job of being my mom’s right-hand “woman” by opening our front door to other struggling Vietnamese parents as they dropped off their children at 7 AM before they rushed to their jobs, which were often factory workers or nail technicians. They would eventually come back at 9 PM in which I wrapped up my job by closing the door with a cheery smile. As time passed, I was promoted to

more duties such as feeding the kids, playing with them, and rounding them up for my mom. The kids were often infants or toddlers, but as I grew up, they grew up with me. While doing all of this, I became a high-achieving student in my Title I elementary school. My mom eventually incorporated this into her babysitting business and I gained the new title of tutorer. A rolemodel. Vietnamese music and rambunctious giggles filled my home nearly every day. This was normal for me. For my life. I never thought more of it because we always had a home and food on the table. Every Saturday night, my mom eventually sits down for the first time and counts the money while crossing out markings in her little floral agenda. Each kid that she babysat was only ten dollars a day. Continued on next page

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ENVISION EQUITY NOVEMBER 2017

“Do you want something new? A new toy? We’ll be shopping this weekend!” She would say to me in Vietnamese with a smile. The nights I recall of her sitting down counting the money we managed for the week were sights of relief and tranquility that continue to occupy my mind till this day. Upon entering middle school, I learned about a new culture that the Southside had not provided for me, the wealthy suburban culture. Kids came from places I had never heard of before: the Highlands, Middletown, Anchorage, Prospect. They wore clothing brands I didn’t know existed, talked about traveling to “bizarre” locations for their summer breaks, and had all these individual cool hobbies. But that didn’t scare me, well at first. It wasn’t until I shared that I didn’t go anywhere for my break and that I didn’t really do anything as my hobbies that I felt awkward and out of place. The hard-hitter moment, however, was when a girl asked me why I always wore the same four outfits all the time. I ultimately clammed up. To say I was intimidated and embarrassed was an understatement. The outgoing, talkative child I was in elementary school stopped as I was embarrassed that I could potentially show any characteristics that portrayed me as odd or ignorant. I never realized I was poor until I came into middle school. All while this was happening, my mother turned fifty-five and my father turned sixty-two. As the years of middle school passed, they became weak and tired and my brothers forced my mom to stop babysitting. Although this was a relief to my siblings and me, slowly the food on our table became less and we eventually never had any family outings anymore. The music and the oncejoyful sounds that once filled our house were replaced with silence and complaints of our bills. In the moments where my mom began sacrificing our culture for our living, I knew I wanted to give back everything my mom had given to me. I quickly settled on a dream to become wealthy as a typical doctor in order to give back to my mother. It wasn’t something I truly wanted, but it was something my mom dreamt for me. And so I continued to work hard quietly in middle school and managed to get accepted into my dream high school, duPont Manual High School.  duPont Manual High School has impacted me deeply as my educational journey was able to expand unlike ever before. I met upperclassmen who had the same backgrounds as me yet they were able to achieve amazing things. I was encouraged and aspired to do and try new things, which eventually broke the bubble that once surrounded me. I tried to join as many clubs that I could manage into my parent’s schedule. I wanted to become an individualized and enriched person, much like the people I had envied in middle school. However, I always grimaced when I realize that I have to pay a $100 fee for clubs and programs. My parents would find crumpled up permission slips in the trash can and slip the amount in my pockets to school. But soon the fees beyond the membership fees began to unravel as well and I had to make sacrifices of academic opportunities in order to have food on the table. I was never able to compete beyond the regional levels like my peers because what seemed like an outrageous price to me was a simple minor inconvenience for my fellow classmates. I couldn’t continue to bring my teachers and sponsors the side and try to haggle for a price. Nevertheless, this had blocked me from achieving several academic opportunities as I had to be constantly be mindful of accessibility and affordability. Something that I also soon realized was that peers were also wealthier than my peers from middle school. They’re able to continue to grow themselves while I somehow continue to be stuck in this Continued on next page

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cycle. Feeling absolutely worthless compared to my successful peers, I looked towards opportunities that were absolutely free: volunteering. So I began volunteering at places all over Louisville. Norton Hospital. St. Mary and Elizabeth Hospital. I went to volunteer at Ronald Mcdonald’s House, at the Louisville Zoo, at marathon events at Waterfront Park. Americana Community Center. As I travel and volunteer among these places, I have encountered many people of many backgrounds. People who had lesser things than me. People who have traveled around the world. People who worked in professional labs. People who were just people. As I expanded my mindset with the interactions with those I’ve met, my wonders of the world reached an absolute peak for discovery. These people had inspired much like my peers at my high school. I realized I wanted to help and learn more about our society. In my head, my dreams of becoming a doctor became less for vanity and was replaced with absolute passion and dedication. With the scholarship money, I believe I would become less of a burden for my parents, for my mother. At this point, they are sixty and sixty-seven years old. My family is not the type to absolutely confront their problems. At one point of my junior year, I was walking to the bathroom at night when I overheard my parents talking in the living room. Murmurs and whispers about if everything would be alright for me if anything were to ever happen to them. That sent chills down my spine and I went back to bed with tears in my eyes. Luckily, through my perseverance, the University of Louisville recognized my academic achievements and has provided me with full tuition for my college years. However, the cost of textbooks, for extracurricular activities, and extraneous fees still linger behind my head. Money was always a gate of my opportunities in the past and I believe if I was awarded the scholarship money, I would be able to finally open those gates with confidence. The gate that has kept away from flower roads of opportunity. Opportunities that I wished to cease before. As well with that, I want to continue to give back to the world and to the community. I want to not only make my mom proud, but to the world that has helped cultivate my mind and personality. I wish to expand my horizon and my mind on meeting and helping the people around the world. Seeing the world in the eyes of others is the most important tool for developing your own mind and personality and I believe if I have the opportunity to provide myself the basics to gain the ability to meet people, I can achieve what I want to do seamlinglessly. The sight of my mother sitting in her chair counting money eased my mind when I was younger. I hope the sight of me being possibly awarded a scholarship eases her mind as she gets older.

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ENVISION EQUITY HOMELESS EDUCATION EDITION 2020

AMERICANA WORLD COMMUNITY CENTER AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAM By Brandon Cox, Miranda Guevara, and Abby Terranova—Americana Community Center

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mericana World Community Center, located at 4801 Southside Drive, provides programs for more than 5,000 people each year from more than 100 different countries. The Community Center provides family education, a Fiberworks studio, and a community garden. The site is home to a family health center, Volunteer Income Tax assistance, and a Survivors of Torture and Recovery Clinic. Americana has long partnered with JCPS, providing Adult Learning programs and an after-school program for K–12 students. “What I love about Americana is that all of us help each other, and the teachers help us with our homework,” says Sherl Sar Moo, a fifth grader in the English as a Second Language (ESL) Program at Americana. “Whenever we go to Americana, they give us food first. Then we go to Special Area, like Gym, Art, STEAM, or Gardening.” Americana has partnered with Dare to Care Kids Café and offers students a hot meal when they arrive at the program after school. The students then participate in a rotating schedule of Special Area classes or

activities from local organizations, including hip-hop dancing, guitar lessons, visits from Louisville City Football Club, and yoga. “We get to meet new friends, and the teacher helps us with our homework,” reflects Law Mue Moo, a fifth grader. Funded through the JCPS Diversity, Equity, and Poverty Programs Division and spearheaded by the work of Giselle Danger-Mercaderes, Americana offers K–5 ESL classes and homework help for students four days a week. Students meet in three classes grouped by grade level. Each day, students are able to work collaboratively with their peers on projects that are specific to the program and with concepts learned during the school day. Teachers reinforce the JCPS curriculum, working in small groups with students. “When I am in a test, and I don’t know what to do, I can rethink about what I did at Americana and learn from there,” says Lwe Soe, another fifth grader. “I have been at Americana for many years now, during summer program, and after-school Continued on next page

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ENVISION EQUITY HOMELESS EDUCATION EDITION 2020

program for the last four years. Knowing these students at such a personal level and looping with them is a gift to all of us,” says Abby Terranova, second- and third-grade ESL teacher at Americana and ESL teacher at Semple Elementary. “I am constantly learning new things from them, trying new foods, pronouncing new words. And they know that I am always available for them. It’s wonderful to be able to provide support in a low-pressure environment. It’s safe for them to make mistakes. We really are a community, working together and having a really good time while we are learning.” Teachers scaffold after-school programs to help students better comprehend their work from the classroom. Students engage with language in meaningful ways; book studies, writing projects, and reading comprehension activities are interspersed with homework help. “In the after-school program, students grapple with language in a variety of ways, including sharing poetry, creative writing, and close-reading activities. The kids also work on their public speaking skills, regularly sharing their original work with their peers. It is amazing to see their growth as their confidence increases,” says Brandon Cox, fourth- and fifth-grade ESL teacher at Americana and K–5 science teacher at Hartstern Elementary. “Americana has helped me not stress out so much and concentrate on what I’m supposed to do,” says Lwe Soe. Within the program, students form lasting friendships. They are able to work and socialize with students from throughout JCPS, sharing ideas and experiences. “I love my job at Americana,” says kindergarten and first-grade ESL Teacher Ramon Miranda, “because it is a great opportunity to help families new to the country and give extra support to their children. We work every week from Monday to Thursday, and we make sure that our pupils learn English, math, and life skills that will make them better students and citizens of the world.” Ramon, who teaches ESL at Rangeland Elementary during the day, moved to the U.S. from Cuba. “I am an immigrant too. I came to the United States of America six years ago, and I understand how hard it is for us who moved from our nations and the struggles we faced at the beginning in order to start a new life here. I love my job at Americana because it is giving me the chance to give back to the society and the people who helped me and my family when we first came. I can’t think of a better place for teaching and learning.” “Americana has helped me smile a lot,” says Sherl Sar Moo. “Americana has also helped me with my homework a lot. It always makes me happy whenever I go to Americana.”

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CLOTHING ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (CAP) CAP by the numbers* Families served: 372 Students served with clothing: 713 Students served with new shoes: 617 Scheduled pickups: 170 Corporate pallets donated: 91 *Service numbers reflect July 29 through December 4, 2020.

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enter for Women and Families picked up these boxes (right) filled with clothing, toiletries, and new shoes on August 7. A chalkboard (left) purchased in the spring greets all the scheduled pickups each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and steers them to the correct location. Retired JCPS elementary teacher Julie Waterman, and Sarah Cole Graham (below) took a break in July. Waterman has volunteered at CAP since 2017. The two were among five volunteers who kept CAP operating throughout the lockdown.

CAP provides support in 2020 struggle The second week of March in Jefferson County brought the announcement of the first local patient with a positive Coronavirus test (Sun., Mar. 8) as well as the last day of in-person classes (Fri., Mar. 13) in Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS). 20


That same week delivered two casualties to the community: normalcy and routine. But the demands of everyday life never stopped for schools, organizations, businesses, families, or students. The work of the 15th District Parent Teacher Association (PTA) Clothing Assistance Program (CAP)—to serve the school district’s neediest families and students—adjusted but never stopped. Messages to CAP sought help for families in unusually difficult circumstances amidst a burgeoning pandemic. A refugee family with six students in elementary, middle, and high schools narrowly escaped a house fire without any physical injuries, but they lost all their clothing and belongings. On Wed., Mar. 18, CAP provided seven large bags filled with clothing, shoes, accessories, blankets, books, games, and toiletries—and even a few bags of chocolate treats—for all members of the family. The bags were safely deposited on the porch of the family’s temporary living arrangement while they waited inside. This was the first of 13 front porch or lobby deliveries during March, April, and May for students displaced by a house fire, uprooted into a new foster situation, or moved to a domestic violence shelter. In each case, students received new clothing, accessories, toiletries, shoes, blankets, and a bag of chocolate. Some essentials. Some treats. Some hope. Since 1971, CAP has provided no-cost help for JCPS families and students. The operation, based inside Central High School Football Stadium, is a partnership between the 15th District PTA and the JCPS Diversity, Equity, Poverty (DEP) Unit. CAP is staffed by one JCPS employee and powered by a handful of dedicated volunteers. CAP is just a phone call or email away from Family Resource and Youth Services Center (FRYSC) coordinators throughout the district and a direct link with the Access and Opportunity Unit, which serves the district’s students experiencing homelessness or foster care as well as refugee families. CAP, along with all JCPS buildings, remains closed to public access, but it has maintained a physical presence and output each week since mid-March. This has allowed a continuity of services for the hardest hit families and students. Safety protocols have left CAP unable to host large groups of volunteers, unable to host community giveaways, and unable to accept donations of gently used clothing. Despite these challenges, CAP has maintained its dedicated core group of volunteers and attracted more corporate donations of new clothing and accessories than ever before.

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Scheduled pickups The start of a school year is typically the busiest time at CAP as families and students—between 1,400 and 1,800—visit the annual Back-to-School Clothing Blitz week for clothing essentials. The blitz was not possible this year, but items were still needed. Beginning in early July, CAP worked with JCPS Human Resources Chief Jimmy Adams for approval of no-contact or low-contact process to transfer important items to FRYSCs, shelters, and other JCPS employees. Non-JCPS employees were not permitted in buildings, but Adams provided special permission and a daily sign-in health form for five volunteers: Sarah Cole Graham, Barbara Fischer, Ann Stein, Julie Waterman, and Cindy Watson. Fischer and Watson are both longtime CAP volunteers. Stein (Johnson Traditional Middle) and Waterman (Brandeis and Dunn Elementary Schools) are both retired JCPS teachers who have volunteered at CAP for the past four years. In September, Graham accepted a full-time job elsewhere and hopes to volunteer at CAP in the future. During a typical year, a FRYSC or other service provider sends size information to CAP. A volunteer fills a basic uniform package: khaki or navy pants, a white polo-style shirt, a belt, five pairs of underwear, and five pairs of socks. If students need new shoes, those can also be provided. Then, the family gathers clothing for their entire household, pulled from racks of sorted and sized items. The altered operation requires volunteers to gather new essentials and also select items from the racks, based on the students’ sizes and needs. All items are bagged or boxed and labelled. A scheduled pickup time is established, and the FRYSC or JCPS employee visits CAP to retrieve the items from a numbered pallet in the concession breezeway of Central Stadium. A freestanding chalkboard purchased in the spring has proven handy for organizing the names and pallet numbers. Most pickups occur without any personal contact, and the schedule is staggered to avoid a congested parking lot. Almost all pickups are accompanied with a chocolate treat. The first pickup began in July with large orders for all local shelters and the many JCPS students and families who live there. FRYSCs have relied on CAP for special support when families face especially difficult circumstances. A triage approach has allowed CAP to refrain from being overwhelmed while providing exceptional support for the most extreme scenarios: grandmothers raising grandchildren, unemployed single parents waiting on checks, new foster situations where the children are beginning with no possessions, families living in vehicles.

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The quality of items that CAP provides consistently have new tags and name brands. Because CAP never stopped operating, it became a willing and ready recipient for corporate donors looking to donate products. Record deliveries Existing relationships with corporate donors have expanded throughout 2020, providing record levels of new clothing, shoes, toiletries, accessories, small appliances, and other products, all of which are shared directly with families. The construction of industrial shelving inside the CAP warehouse and the acquisition of a hydraulic lift in 2018—an investment made with the blessings of Chief Equity Officer John Marshall and Access and Opportunity Unit Coordinator Giselle Danger—altered the CAP operation. Now the increased storage potential allows CAP to say “Yes!” to offers of corporate truckloads of new items. CAP accepted 91 pallets of new items from three corporate suppliers since January, with more than 60 of those arriving since May. A new corporate supplier has offered an additional seven pallets of new shoes, which will arrive before the end of 2020. Hanna Andersson is the largest donor this year with 10 pallets of clothing items in May and an additional 28 pallets of costumes and clothing in November. Other donors wish to remain anonymous but have supplied high-quality new shoes, clothing, cosmetic items, toiletries, small appliances, and even the bags of chocolate that accompany the pickups. With the exception of 10 pallets, all of the 2020 corporate donations are picked up by JCPS Supply Services, which sends trucks and drivers to loading docks and deliver the items back to CAP. The donations allow companies to regain valuable warehouse floor space and write off the expenses while knowing the items will not be sold and will go directly to those in need. All items are distributed as bonus items to JCPS families and students identified as needing help. Existing relationships with noble nonprofits and generous groups have shown another side of 2020—the generosity. These organizations include sock company Bombas, nonprofit Project Linus, the Hindu Temple of Kentucky, and numerous other individuals and families who have stepped up to help others.

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AN EVENING AT WAYSIDE By Joni Dawson—Wayside

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onday afternoon would roll around, and as I would wrap up my day at Crosby Middle School, I would think about what my evening would entail. I would leave my classroom between 3:45 and 4 p.m., knowing I was headed to a very different type of classroom, but a classroom just the same. I

always left by 4 p.m. so I would not be trapped in the traffic traveling from Middletown to downtown Louisville. I love my job at Crosby, but my heart truly beats for my job at Wayside Christian Mission each evening. The Diversity, Equity, and Poverty Department through JCPS has shown me my true calling—working with

our JCPS students who are experiencing homelessness. I take my laptop, math worksheets and manipulatives, short stories, composition notebooks, juice boxes, candy, and hot Cheetos and pack it in all into Wayside with a little spare time to go visit with my families before we start Extended School Services (ESS) at 5 p.m. I teach each evening for two hours, but I am there for more than three hours, because it’s where my heart lies. The students come to the ESS room—or “tutoring room,” as they call it—with their backpacks in hand or folders full of work they need help with. We work on assignments from their teachers, and then we make sure to work on the

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math, reading, and writing lessons that I develop. With so many students at Wayside, I break the kids up into groups by grade level so we can have an interactive lesson each day. They love to work on math together and challenge one another to work hard. With only two hours a day Monday through Wednesday, we would meet in groups of about five to eight students for 30 to 45 minutes each. The ESS room is not big enough for more than that amount, and I want each group/child to be as successful as possible and get the attention they need to grow academically.  Children in kindergarten through twelfth grade are not the only “students” at Wayside. Often, I encounter moms who are looking for assistance with their younger children struggling to learn their letters or numbers or a mom wanting to get their GED. By having a JCPS teacher at these sites, we are able to provide these individuals with resources they need or point them in the right direction. If I do not have the academic resources for a 3-year-old, I will get it and provide our future JCPS student with assistance. If I do not have materials or information pertaining to obtaining a GED, I will get it and provide the mom of our current/future JCPS student with assistance.   Each day at a homeless shelter looks different. Children come and go. Families leave and get a house of their own and, unfortunately, sometimes return to the shelter when things do not work out. I do my best to stay in contact with the families who move out and have a place of their own. I have been blessed enough to go to birthday parties, help families move, and attend concerts and school programs for my students. Without the backing of the Diversity, Equity, and Poverty Department, many students would be missing out on the resources and assistance they need and many JCPS teachers, like myself, would be missing the immense blessing of working with these families.


AN INTERVIEW WITH LIZ RUBANDO, YOUTH PROGRAMS COORDINATOR OF AMERICANA WORLD COMMUNITY CENTER By Brandon Cox, Miranda Guevara, and Abby Terranova—Americana Community Center

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ow does the Americana afterschool program generally work?

We function as an after-school program from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. When the students arrive from school, generally between 3:30 and 4 p.m., they receive a hot meal from Dare to Care. Then from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., they have Specials, which include Art; Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM); Creative Writing; and Gym Time. Then, the other half is spent in homework help and English as a Second Language (ESL) classes from JCPS teachers. How does that look different during NTI? It’s become a lot more academically involved in terms of making sure that students and their families understand what is going on generally with JCPS and, on top of that, providing digital Continued on next page

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support, internet support, and basic things that a family needs during NTI. Specifically for the ESL teachers, it is knowing the background knowledge of how JCPS is working. It allows students to have a leg up to the plane where most other students are. This gives the students equity to be successful in NTI. We are also a feeding site. Since March, we have distributed more than 50,000 meals. It’s been a really great way to keep in touch with families. A lot of parents don’t have email or reliable phone service, and it’s been a way to stay connected. Can you describe how community partnerships have worked during NTI? We’ve been working a lot with Mindfulness Mentors and the Louisville Ballet, and they’ve been able to provide an outlet for these students. Students are able to get out of the house and be kids. A lot of them are taking care of their younger siblings because their parents are working, and they are learning how to balance home life and school life. They’ve learned a lot of breathing and meditation techniques to help break up the day to get them out of their school mindset and be able to focus on themselves for a little bit. That is invaluable for anybody but especially for these students.  How has the ESL Program impacted students? We can count on the teachers to reach out to the kids, to keep them motivated, to let them know that they are able to do this work and that they have outside support other than their teachers and their families. Through programs like the Khan Academy, we were able to track student growth even over the summer. It’s important that students have an outlet to read, write, and speak in English to have some sort of conversational skills. The ESL teachers have a background knowledge of JCPS, policies, and how to use Google Classroom. They make the Americana program so much more comprehensive. The teachers allow the students to feel like they have a chance in the school system. The fact that the students have consistent support is so important.  Continued on next page

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It is amazing that the ESL teachers spend their whole day teaching, pandemic or not, and then take the extra time out of their days to come work with these kids. It is just fascinating to me. I’m exhausted after just two hours! The fact that the ESL teachers do it all day is invaluable and so impressive. It means so much to me and to these kids for the ESL teachers to continuously show up every day.   What is something that you wish all JCPS teachers and staff knew about Americana kids? Just how hard they are trying. Today a fifth grader was telling me how his mom only gets one day off from work, how he has to sleep at a different house than his brothers, and how his mom doesn’t have time to log his younger brother on to kindergarten, so he has been trying to but doesn’t know how. I wish teachers knew how vastly different these students’ home lives are from a lot of their other students. I still think they should complete their assignments, but I think they have a lot of other things going on that most kids don’t have going on. And no one speaks English at their homes. So if you are in first grade or second grade and have spent so much time without anyone speaking English, anything with NTI is going to be difficult. 


ENVISION EQUITY HOMELESS EDUCATION EDITION 2020

WAYSIDE’S BLESSING —MS. MAUREEN By Joni Dawson—Wayside

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ver the last five years, I have had the blessing of working with JCPS students at The Center for Women and Families, Wayside Christian Mission, Volunteers of America, and St. Vincent de Paul through the Diversity, Equity, and Poverty Department. When I look back at each of those sites and all the students who I have had the opportunity to teach, I also think of the staff members at those sites who have become an important part of my life. I can honestly say that working hand-in-hand with the staff members at these sites is vitally important. My relationship with the residents, staff members at the sites, and JCPS teachers/staff has taken what I do at the sites to a place far beyond teaching. I spend much of my free time throughout the school year and summer months helping and working with the families of Wayside, in particular. There is a true angel working at Wayside—Ms. Maureen. I cannot say that what she does is a job; it is more of a mission for her. Ms. Maureen gives all she has to the residents, current and past, of Wayside. She has become a blessing and true friend of mine over the last five years. Ms. Maureen makes JCPS and my job successful at Wayside. We communicate throughout the week and even on weekends when it comes to the educational needs, and sometimes the physical needs, of the students residing at Wayside. I will get a text from Ms. Maureen during the week when a new student arrives, and I will go down to the shelter and help the parent/student enroll in JCPS and answer any questions they may have about their child’s education, transportation, technology, and, now, NTI. The communication and collaboration Ms. Maureen and I have make the relationship with JCPS and Wayside a successful one. When NTI became a reality, Ms. Maureen and I worked very hard to make sure each of our students at Wayside had what they needed to complete their work and attend their Google Meets each day as well as have the technology to meet with me in the evening for ESS. We scheduled a time with the parents to get all the information needed to secure Chromebooks and hotspots for each family. We had almost 30 school-aged children to provide with supplies, technology, and even lessons on how to access what they needed. Without Ms. Maureen helping me organize this, it would have been very difficult, if not impossible. Continued on next page

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Ms. Maureen and I were able to work together to provide our Jefferson County Public Schools students with the academic resources needed for NTI and beyond. Those of us who provide services through the Diversity, Equity, and Poverty Department offer an invaluable asset to our students by providing assistance beyond the school day. Meeting with students after school hours for ESS gives those students at risk for falling behind due to circumstances beyond their control, a more level playing field. Having staff members like Ms. Maureen, investing in our vision and purpose, gives us a winning team year round. Â

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SIGNING ON By Nicole Finley—Lead JCPS Homeless Education Teacher

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here are more than 5,000 people who live at or below the poverty line in Louisville, resulting in a large presence of homelessness throughout our county. What is most concerning is that out of all of these individuals who live below the poverty line, most of them are children. Thus, as classroom teachers, we face the challenge of teaching these students in traditional classrooms, whereas most of their peers have, at minimum, access to needed resources. Though eager and wanting to learn, these students are at risk of facing social and academic challenges that can give them a disadvantage in the traditional classroom setting. Upon signing on to one of our Extended Learning Classrooms, my middle school students receive a smile, maybe a song from my Spotify account, and warm greetings. Within moments of our dance party, students are eager to share funny stories and the highlights of their NTI day. They tell stories about students falling asleep on camera, teachers’ pets knocking over their coffee in the middle of a lesson, or their teacher having to unexpectedly mute everyone because of the chatter. They get a real kick out of “Freeze Frames” on students’ and teachers’ cameras too. Though these incidents may sound chaotic, my students appear to enjoy the normalcy of it all and look forward to our time together in Extended Learning. I have worked with the Homeless Education Extended Learning Program for several years, and I have not found a year more rewarding than this one. Our students, regardless of their circumstances, show up to Extended Learning ready and willing to learn, laugh, work, and play. And as a teacher, I show up ready to give them the attention, the laughs, and the learning they need to be successful. Teaching homeless students in NTI can certainly be a challenge, but our students count on our services to level the learning field. NTI has allowed us a forced opportunity to make a way out of no way, and there is no better way to be an advocate for our students.

Nik Williams, King Elementary School

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REACHING ALL STUDENTS By Sarah Jessica Dries—Norton Common Elementary School

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ver the past several years, I have worked outside of my regular school hours providing both enrichment during summer school and after-school tutoring for our homeless student population through the DEP Department in JCPS. While I don’t keep track of the number of families I have worked with, each one has a special place in my heart. The students come from a variety of schools and sometimes are new to our district. Regardless of how each student comes to work with me, the goal is the same: to help each student succeed in the classroom and beyond. The appreciation expressed by the families I have worked with makes my heart swell. Oftentimes, I meet parents who want nothing more than to help their child with schoolwork, but these families often have an overwhelming number of obstacles in their way. The after-school tutoring that I provide helps remove some of those barriers.

The tutoring takes place in the shelters, where families are living. There is no special transportation needed. When we are providing face-to-face instruction, I arrive at the shelter just as dinner is being finished. My students always react with smiles and cheers when they see me walk through the dining room, oftentimes trying to leave the table before they are finished eating.  This tutoring work involves knowing the learning standards for various grade levels in order to provide individualized assistance to each student. The way that our district organizes instruction makes it easy to determine what a student is learning in class, regardless of whether they have any schoolwork to show me. It always makes me smile when a student is shocked that I know exactly what they are learning with their classroom teacher. This Continued on next page

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organization of curricula allows for a continuum of learning, regardless if a family transitions between schools or if a student has absences and needs to complete missed classwork. Through frequent communication with the shelter staff and other tutors, I coordinate schedule changes and other necessary information. Together with shelter staff, I have implemented attendance incentive programs to spark interest in tutoring with all age groups, from kindergarten through twelfth grade.  While providing all instruction virtually for the past several months has come with its challenges, it has also allowed me to further individualize instruction for students by meeting with them independently in electronic meetings. This season has been difficult for all of our students, and the students who have additional challenges, such as homelessness, are particularly affected by not physically being in school. Providing tutoring not only gives them an educational opportunity but also fulfills the need of being seen by the adults who work in JCPS. So often, these students receive greetings, high fives, and words of encouragement from school staff throughout their day. These are important, small moments in each student’s day. Attending a virtual tutoring session helps fill this void that virtual learning has created. The team of tutors I work with is nothing short of amazing. Whenever a need arises, everyone jumps at the opportunity to help. Whether it is volunteering time on a Saturday morning to help with a community walk, organizing and assisting with a winter party, or providing a home-cooked breakfast for our summer school students, everyone pitches in where needed. Not only do the tutors themselves show up, but often our families are there to help with whatever needs to get done. It is heartwarming to work with a group of colleagues who will drop everything and be there whenever needed. The services we provide for our homeless student population are making a difference in their lives. By continuing to address these needs, we will be able to reach all students.

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Lily’s Devotion By Joni Dawson—Wayside

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his is my fifth year working in ESS through the Diversity, Equity, and Poverty Department, and the 2020-21 school year is indescribably different from any year prior. I

have spent the last four years going to Wayside Christian Mission three or four evenings a week and spending two hours doing what I love more than anything—working with the JCPS students who live in the shelter. The children at Wayside light up when I walk in the door and are so excited to work on math, reading, and writing. This year is different. However, what I am doing this year is just as important for the children who are struggling with homelessness. Google Meets and the JCPS Diversity, Equity, and Poverty Department have allowed these ESS sessions to continue despite NTI and quarantine. I would like to introduce you to a fourth-grade student who we will call Lily. Lily attends Shelby Traditional Academy and lives at Wayside Christian Mission with her dad and her two siblings. This is Lily’s second year in JCPS and her second school in JCPS. Lily has lived at three addresses, including the homeless shelter, according to Infinite Campus, but from talking to Lily when we meet multiple times a week, I know there are many other addresses where she stays from time to time while her dad is at work. Her mom is not in the picture, and Lily never speaks about where mom is located. I always assumed mom was in Florida since that is where Lily lived prior to moving to Louisville last year. Dad has full custody, and Lily has never mentioned her mom in all our talks, lessons, and Google Meets.  If I were to describe the relationship that Lily and I have developed over my last two years working at Wayside in one word, it would be devotion. Lily knows that I will always be there— virtually or in person—and I know Lily will do everything in her power to do the same. We have had lessons—in person and virtually—in a park, the cafeteria at Wayside, a TARC bus, an aunt and uncle’s house, and most recently, the hospital.  I was shocked a couple weeks ago when Lily logged in at 4 p.m. sharp, and I could see the all too \

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that she had strep throat and that the rest of her family was being tested too. I told her we could meet later or the next day, but Lily wanted to do our math lesson for the day. Assuming that the distraction was what she needed more than anything, as well as to know I was there for her, I began our multiplication lesson. Lily mentioned that she was going to miss the dinner hour at Wayside and that she was excited to eat in the cafeteria at the hospital. We finished our math lesson, and I let Lily choose a topic on Kahoot (an online learning game) for all of us to play at the end of our hour together. The topic Lily chose was Thanksgiving. My heart filled with thankfulness for Lily and the opportunity JCPS has given me by bringing her into my life.Â

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WHATEVER IT TAKES By Barry Finley—JCPS Employee

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onsider this: a single mom with a family of four boys (ages 15, 12, 4, and newborn) living in a shelter where they share one room. They have no personal space of their own when they’re “at home.” Unfortunately, this family has grown used to this, living in other local shelters in the past. Getting up to go to school every day was exciting and looked forward to because these young boys knew they would get a well-balanced breakfast and a hot lunch every day. School provided them with a desk and a space they could call their own. These general comforts may seem small and unimportant to most, but for these young boys, it was an upgrade from what they were used to living at the Wayside Homeless Shelter. This is unfortunately the story of a growing number of JCPS students in our community. When the COVID-19 global pandemic hit, causing nationwide school closures and this somewhat novel concept of virtual learning, the much-needed perks of two daily meals and a space to call their own was taken away from the two young boys I speak of. They were thrust back into the confines of their one room at the homeless shelter for the majority of the day. Along with the COVID-19 pandemic, NTI 2.0 has presented several problems of its own for students within the JCPS homeless population. As a certified JCPS teacher working with the Diversity, Equity, and Poverty Programs Division as a part of the Homeless Education Program, it is my job to facilitate extended learning opportunities for students who are currently housed at the Wayside Homeless Shelter as well as the Volunteers of America Homeless Shelter. The Homeless Education Program provides students within the district's homeless population the school materials needed to be successful during NTI 2.0. As an extended learning teacher, I provide supplemental instruction using core content standards in language arts and math. If a parent has questions pertaining to grades, school policies, or communicating with their child’s teacher, I also assist them there or point them to the appropriate resource to meet their needs. My duties are to be a valuable resource for these students, helping them navigate many of the technical challenges of NTI 2.0. Whether it is showing a student how to join a breakout room or record a presentation, I am there for them in any way I can be.

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COVID 19 & Homelessness Common Questions There are many common questions about children and youth who are experiencing homelessness. Schoolhouse Connection has answered some of the questions we hear the most. Are we required or able to make McKinney-Vento eligibility determinations during this time? We have received a few requests. Yes. The McKinney-Vento Act is still fully in effect. The way in which the law is implemented must change, of course, but the law is in effect. It is more important than ever to continue with identification efforts. We expect many new families and youth to fall into homelessness due to the economic crisis, with many urgent needs. In addition, it is possible that some supplemental funding might be based on the number of homeless students identified. Therefore, identifying your newly homeless students is imperative at this time. North Carolina is repurposing a form created to respond to natural disasters to track homelessness related to COVID-19.

My district created a district-level online school. It is not attached to a specific school. If a first time McKinney-Vento student is attending digitally this year, and is McKinney-Vento eligible next year, what will the student’s “brick and mortar school” school of origin be? In this situation, since the online program isn’t attached to a specific school, the school building of origin would be the school in which the student was last enrolled in-person, or the school the student attended in-person when last permanently housed. The distance learning program also is a school of origin, if the student wants to continue with distance learning.  The student also will have the right to enroll in any school that a child living where he is living would be eligible to attend. So if he is living in your district, he would attend the school building for which his living Continued on next page

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situation is zoned. If your district has open enrollment, or charter schools, or other options, he would have access to those, as well. For McKinney-Vento students, is the mode of instruction a valid best interest factor for school selection? Yes. The best interest determination is an individualized, student-centered determination based on the best interest of the student. Best interest factors must be considered in the context of distance learning and COVID-19. As distance learning creates unique and additional hardships for students experiencing homelessness, it is directly related to the student’s achievement and education. At the same time, a parent or unaccompanied youth may prefer distance learning for health and safety reasons. The determination will vary based on circumstances and the parent’s or unaccompanied youth’s wishes.

A student is attending her school of origin in district A, but staying in a homeless situation in district B. If district A is opening their schools for inperson learning, and district B is doing distance learning only, is district B still obligated to provide the student transportation to the school of origin in district A? Yes. In this scenario, both districts still have to work together to provide the student with transportation to the school of origin for in-person school.  The McKinney-Vento Act requires transportation to the school of origin. In circumstances where a student is crossing district lines to attend the school of origin, the McKinney-Vento Act says the two districts can make any arrangement they like to share the cost and responsibility of providing the transportation.  If they cannot agree on an arrangement, they have to split the cost 50/50.

We have a student who was in Texas, from Honduras, trying out for a soccer program when COVID hit. Honduras closed their boundaries before the student was able to return, so now the student cannot return to Honduras. The parents (who are in Honduras) sent the student to live with his grandmother in our district in another state. Is the student McKinney-Vento eligible? Yes. The student is an unaccompanied homeless youth, living in a homeless situation and not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. The student is “sharing the housing of others due to loss of housing, economic hardship or a similar reason.” In this case, it is

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impossible for the student to return home. That is a loss of housing, and the “similar reason” is the impossibility of returning home due to COVID. Even though his parents have a home — the student cannot get there.

A student came to our state to help a family member move over the summer, planning to return home before the start of school. During the summer, the child’s mother lost her job due to COVID-19. She has not lost her housing. The mother had COVID-19, but has recovered at home. At this time, the mother does not want the child to return home, for fear of him contracting COVID-19. Is the student McKinney-Vento eligible? Based on this information, the student is not McKinney-Vento eligible. The student is not “staying with others due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason.” If the mother had lost her housing, then he would be eligible. If the mother remains unemployed, and her economic hardship causes her to lose her housing, or to have to move in with others or into a smaller space that would be inadequate for the student, then he would be eligible. However, it appears that currently, the mother has housing and could have the student return to live with her. If the mother were actively ill and either in the hospital, or home but actively contagious, there might be an argument for eligibility for the student. A McKinney-Vento family has moved 75 miles away from the school of origin. The parent wants the children to remain in that school. We are currently providing distance learning, so I would like to keep the students enrolled. However, if we return to full or partial in-person school, that is a long distance to transport the students. What should we do? The students can remain in the school of origin as long as it is in their best interest to do so (for the duration of their homelessness, and to complete the academic year in which they move into permanent housing).  With distance learning in place, the physical distance from school is not much of an issue, and the benefits of keeping the students stable almost certainly outweigh any complications of distance. Therefore, the McKinney-Vento Act fully supports keeping the students in their school of origin, particularly since that is the parent’s wish. When schools reopen in whole or in part for in-person learning, you and the parent will need to re-examine best interest. The distance is long, but if school reopens on a hybrid model, it may be a matter of commuting only once or twice a week. There may be reasons why keeping the children in the same school is Continued on next page

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paramount. (Is the family expecting to move again imminently? Do the students have special needs?) On the other hand, if the students are starting a new school year in a new community, where the family is likely to stay for a while, and there are not special needs coming to play, it is likely to be in the children’s best interest to switch schools, given the distance. In that case, you could connect with the liaison in the local district to ensure immediate enrollment and a smooth transition.

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LAYERS OF TUTORING SUPPORT DURING NTI By Joel Dries—Kammerer Middle School

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y primary role in JCPS is as a regular education classroom teacher at the middle school level. I am also the parent of two JCPS students—the older is a senior in high school and the younger is in the eighth grade. Through these dual prisms, I have seen the wide range of effects that COVID has had on the education of my kids, broadly speaking. Partly, this has been the struggle of distance learning as a whole—learning and using a huge variety of computer-based platforms and programs, the difficulty in giving and receiving immediate feedback for continuous improvement, and the overall increase in screen time that students face through the course of the “school day.” Perhaps more importantly, the social and emotional learning that education provides has been even more drastically affected by distance learning. The stress of the increased necessity of time management and organizational skills, the difficulty of developing a sense of community within the learning environment, and the overall isolation that students are feeling all weigh heavily on the social and emotional development of our students. I see these issues with all of my students (and my own children), but I am well aware that these issues are further multiplied for specific populations of our students. B.C. (Before COVID), I worked twice a week tutoring students from the JCPS homeless population. I worked with middle and high school students on any subject that was needed—from algebra to U.S. History to Spanish. More importantly, I had students that would come to the tutoring sessions not only to get help with their school work, but also to talk about their day, their siblings, their goals, and much more. I truly felt that I was helping them with their social-emotional needs as much as their academic needs.  When COVID hit and I couldn’t safely provide in-person tutoring sessions for those students, as much as I worried about all my students, I was extremely worried about the disproportionate effect that COVID would have on these students. Supports that were needed more than ever Continued on next page

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were largely unavailable. My wife, who had also been tutoring elementary-age kids at VOA before COVID hit, and I had been in touch with the volunteer liaison at VOA about how the kids had been doing with NTI during these difficult times. The volunteer liaison is an amazing resource for the kids at VOA, and we knew she was doing everything in her power to help those kids be successful. Still, we also knew that those kids needed more layers of support to help them be successful with distance learning. When we were contacted about providing virtual tutoring for these students, I was extremely happy that this service would be provided to the students. I was really excited to again provide support for these students in any way that I could. Since tutoring has begun, I have been grateful to reach out to students to help them with math and to let them know that I am there to support them. In setting up a Google Classroom for students to have a means of communication, several students have messaged that they were happy to know that they could get my support when needed. I have had my regulars attending tutoring sessions during which we have made real academic progress together. In addition to the academic support, I feel that the students appreciate having someone else to talk to and to really listen to them. I know that I cannot offer the full range of social and emotional support that everyone requires in our current circumstances, but I feel that I make some small contribution to their overall well-being during our time together. I look forward to continuing to be one layer of support during NTI for these kids.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF MEETING EVERY STUDENT By Nicole Finley—Lead JCPS Homeless Education Teacher

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y the time Michelle reached fifth grade, she had changed schools more times than she could recall—maybe at least nine or more times. During most of her last year in elementary

school, she slept in a tent off Preston Street, relying on the back seat of her mom’s Subaru for shelter when the weather got bad. She looked forward to school each and every day because she knew that there, she would have food, warmth, love, and attention. When she arrived to class, she mistakenly thought that she would be the only one in such a predicament, so she did not share her situation with others, but she was not. Though we would like for this to be a unique experience, Michelle’s story is not unusual for teachers in the Homeless Education Department. Over the last few years, the number of homeless children has continued to increase. Many Homeless Education students are not even counted because their residence changes so rapidly, they do not inform the school of their living arrangements, or their parents avoid speaking to school officials out of fear of losing custody of their children. But for the thousands of students who live in shelters, motels, cars, or on the street, their JCPS school is a safe haven—a place free of the chaos and fear that they may be susceptible to otherwise. So to try and carry on these feelings of security, our after-school program offers JCPS certified teachers as an extension of their school day. As a JCPS Homeless Education teacher, not only do I provide supplemental academic services— teaching Common Core Standards and ACT prep and providing additional instruction for students— but I also serve as a liaison to help interpret complicated procedures and policies, coordinate services, find supplemental resources, and offer other needed support that students may struggle to receive in a traditional school setting. Because homeless students oftentimes struggle with attending school regularly, we go to them. We take them as they are and wherever they are, even if they live in the back of a Subaru. 43


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Credits Editor—Catherine Collesano Editor, Photo Contributor—Abdul Sharif Envision Equity is a publication of the JCPS Department of Diversity, Equity, and Poverty Programs. All submissions should be sent to Catherine Collesano at catherine.collesano@jefferson.kyschools.us or Abdul Sharif at abdul.sharif2@jefferson.kyschools.us. If you are interested in becoming a subscriber or a contributor to Envision Equity, please contact one of the editors at the above email address. www.jefferson.kyschools.us Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer Offering Equal Educational Opportunities

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December 2020 Homeless Education Special Edition  

December 2020 Homeless Education Special Edition  

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