High school senior Anabel felt the impact of COVID more than most students.
Medical care for her ill father induced Anabel’s family to move to Vancouver, WA, where they quickly discovered the city’s lack of affordable housing. While the family struggled with homelessness, schools went remote, so Anabel started her senior year at her new school online. Already lacking enough credits to graduate on time, she began failing classes.
“School was hard,” recalls Anabel. “I didn’t have any help if I needed it. Plus, being completely online made everything harder.”
The family entered the shelter program at Family Promise of Clark County, and Anabel and her siblings joined the learning center the Affiliate created to address the barriers that remote education presented for families experiencing homelessness. The center features quiet classrooms, individual workstations, and reliable internet service. The PAX Learning Center, a Vancouver nonprofit that provides professional teachers and tutors to adults and youth, partnered with Family Promise to provide tutors trained in trauma-informed care to work with students. The local school district even delivers meals to students each day.
Anabel spent five days a week at her workstation and studied with tutors when necessary. Within weeks, she was earning As and Bs and making up missed credits. She’d always wanted to be a teacher and saw her dreams becoming reality – she graduated high school last spring and is now pursuing a degree in early childhood education, the first in her family to attend college.
Kelsey Loy, the Affiliate’s educational coordinator, says Anabel’s success is the product of hard work and accessibility.
“When Anabel’s family first came to us, COVID hit and there was nowhere for kids to do their schoolwork,” says Loy. “Education may have been a priority in the past, but when you’re struggling with homelessness and whatever other challenges your family is facing, you just don’t have the means to make it happen.”
The learning center addresses these challenges by giving students access to the resources and support they need to succeed in school during a time of crisis. Initially intended to serve 25 students, so far, more than 30 kids from three districts have received a range of academic aid, from referrals and educational advocacy to tutoring and college applications. The program has been so successful, the Affiliate has made an ongoing commitment to education support programming.
“This isn’t just a COVID issue,” explains Loy. Parents in trauma and trying to get their lives together still need to navigate the school system and advocate for their kids. They need to know how to ensure their children get the most out of their education.”
She cites another family whose deaf daughter attended a special residential school that limited on-campus housing during the pandemic.
“We helped the family advocate to keep her on campus to continue receiving the support she needed. In fact, she now receives more help than before because she’s one of a select few students still on campus with direct access to support,” Loy says.
At the learning center, Loy has seen parents go from feeling lost and overwhelmed to becoming their children’s biggest advocates. They’re learning what resources are available to their children and understanding their education rights. And the kids are working hard to succeed in school, despite the challenges in their personal lives.
Anabel’s family moved from Family Promise’s shelter program to their own apartment last spring. Her parents continue to receive graduate support, and her younger brother still participates in the learning center. Anabel is laying the groundwork for a career in education, realizing a lifelong dream of working with children.
“I’ve always wanted to go to college and become a teacher,” She says. “I’m really happy and proud that I’m making it happen.”
This year, thousands of families like Anabel’s faced life-altering challenges. Their situations were unique, but they had one thing in common: Family Promise. Family Promise Affiliates across the country provided families in need with food, shelter, job search assistance, and access to critical resources. But we couldn’t have done it without the support of people like you.
Your support enables families in crisis to turn tragedy into triumph.