This month we had two wonderful stories submitted by our School Outreach Coordinators, showcasing the power art can have highlighting social justice work and school climate. Sadie Strain at Highline High School shares her powerful story, working with a 9th grade student to launch a virtual art gallery. The art showcase called Beauty in Blackness was “created to provide a permanent virtual space for Highline district students and our local community to come together to celebrate Black people and Black movements.” So far a total of 13 student artists from 8 different schools participated with submissions of their work.
Makenna Lester, our School Outreach Coordinator at Kilo Middle School, brings us another story of powerful artwork. Makenna’s Schollar Voice Collaborative group hosted a school-wide art contest. The contest’s theme focused on shedding light on social issues. The SVC group chose a few social issues their classmates could highlight through their artwork. Acknowledging recent events in the news, the group wanted to emphasize Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI), and chose Stop Asian Hate movement as one of the themes for the contest.
The impact of COVID-19 has been deeply felt by all of our students and their families creating new challenges with food, shelter and clothing. Our School Outreach Coordinators are on the front-lines making sure that our students have access to the resources they need. Pat Perkins, our School Outreach Coordinator at Illahee Middle School, tells us how her community partner Brooklake Church, stepped up to support another Illahee family in need. Working with Pat, the family filled out an online grocery list of food they would need for the month. Brooklake was able to support the families needs, providing over $400 in food.
Another of our School Outreach Coordinators, Charisse Abellard-Knight at Sacajawea Middle School, was able to start the Sacajawea pantry which will directly support Sacajawea scholars and their families. Charisse was able to start this project after receiving a very generous donation from a Sacajawea family. All items from the donation were selected by a Sacajawea student. The items were selected by considering two main factors, what students like to eat and what students can make themselves. This generous donation has become the start of the Sacajawea pantry and Charisse can’t wait to see how their panty will grow.
Our School Outreach Coordinator, Precious Yarborough at Madrona Elementary, has been hosting a weekly, school-wide yoga session. A special thank you goes out to Teacher Katie from 3 Trees Yoga for leading these ongoing events for our students. Teacher Katie worked with 2nd and 4th graders over the fall and winter to give them a break from sitting down all day. Precious was happy to share about the sessions saying, “with in-person PE not being an option for many, this is a great way for our students to incorporate some movement and mindfulness into their day.”
We’ve got Laundry Soap! Communities In School is preparing for another resource fair to support our students and their families. Our School Outreach Coordinator, Kimberly Foster at TAF@Saghalie, was excited to take part in this major endeavor and share her news on collecting laundry soap for families. TAF@Saghalie School Counselor Elizabeth Benitez has put the word out and she and Kimberly are actively collecting laundry soap for the upcoming Resource Fair. They are continuing to work hard to get donations to be able to serve 1000 families on June 5th! A big thank you to all of the staff and supporters who have already donated to help our Federal Way families.
Mental Health Awareness Month
Since 1949, May has marked the observance of Mental Health Awareness Month. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the mental health of people of all ages. Now, more than ever, with rises in uncertainty, added stress from navigating remote learning, anxiety, depression, and eating disorders, it is critical to support our students’ mental well being.
Our School Outreach Coordinator, Gina Forest at Federal Way High School shared her story of staying connected with her students putting an emphasis on their mental states. Gina has been reaching out to all twenty-seven of her case managed students for a special Motivation Monday check-in to see how each of them are doing emotionally. Included in her Motivation Monday is an email including words of encouragement such as, “ life is like a camera, focus on what is important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives and if things don’t work out, take another shot.” She also encouraged each of her students to write down these four steps to help them if they were having any issues with mental state. One, accept yourself as you are; Two, Focus on the basics; Three, Practice mindfulness; And four, make small goals.
Communities In Schools is holding its first ever Scholar Voice Collaborative summit. The summit has been thoughtfully planned by all of our School Outreach Coordinators with SVC groups as an end of year grand event. The virtual event will include all of the SVC groups across the district. The theme for this auspicious event is, “One Love”. The theme was chosen as a reminder, that in spite of the current hardships we are each facing navigating through the crisis in public health, racial justice and economic uncertainty, we all need to spread love. Each of the middle schools have been spreading the word to their schools about this summit.
Alexis Jordan, our School outreach coordinator at Totem Middle School, conveyed some of the creative ways that her and her students have pivoted with remote learning so that her team could spread the word to every student at Totem. She was happy to share her group’s hard work and creative thinking has paid off with Totem currently holding the highest registration numbers for the event.
Our School Outreach Coordinator, Tre Howard at Thomas Jefferson High School, highlights the need for academic assistance with his students. Tre has recently been connecting with an ELL (English-language learner) student, who is behind in many of their classes. Unfortunately, this student is facing very challenging barriers having to assist in caring for his younger siblings during the week while their mother is at work. The student described his struggles to overcome his barriers to Tre as a huge burden pulling all of his energy from him.
Tre has been working with this student every day during his school support hours to support his students’ individual needs to succeed. Excitedly, after working with Tre regularly, the student was able to get caught up in all of their classes. Tre was very humbled by the students’ comments each time they would meet saying how much he appreciates meeting and working with Tre, and he feels more comfortable reaching out for support next year. Tre is thrilled and overjoyed by the amount of support he’s providing and looking forward to a brighter future working with his students in the next year.
It is always such a great honor to have the opportunity to hear from our students just how much they appreciate each of our School Outreach Coordinators. Cierra Gamble, our School Outreach Coordinator at Todd Beamer High School recently received such an honor. One of Cierra’s students sent her an email thanking her for all that she does for them. In the email the student writes, “I want to thank you for the endless support and kindness throughout the year. I appreciate all the times you checked on me and how you were always an email or text message away.” Cierra felt as though this letter came at exactly the time she needed it saying, “Many times, as an SOC you don’t feel like you’re making a good enough impact or meeting the needs of your students and families; Especially in the climate that we are in now. It was good to know that our efforts are seen and her note to me really helped.”
Notes are not the only way that our students show their appreciation. Shana Ludwig, School Outreach Coordinator at Decatur High School has another story of students showing their appreciation in the form of voting. Shana was honored to be asked to speak at the Decatur 2021 Senior Breakfast. Speakers are chosen by student vote and Shana was ever so humbled to know that students voted for her to be a speaker at their Graduation events this year. She went on to say, “I feel like it is an honor and a privilege to be involved in this event with them.”
Scholar Voice Collaborative
This month we collected two Scholar Voice Collaborative stories from our School Outreach Coordinators highlighting their groups successes with student voice. Our first entry comes to us from Alicia Vasey-Neilson at Sequoyah Middle School. Alicia wanted to highlight her SVC group’s success presenting their project to Sequoyah’s principal. The group researched popular electives and clubs. Their findings showed that the most popular electives and clubs in middle schools are not currently being offered at Sequoyah. The group supported this claim providing their data to the principal in hopes that it will help inform future planning. Alicia was excited to report that the principal loved the feedback and plans to show the student data to the building leadership team.
Our second story came to us from Amanda Martinson from Lakota Middle School. Amanda proudly shared Lakota’s SVC has finally gotten to put their hard work into action distributing information on two topics school-wide. The group picked two topics that were important to them creating two projects for the entire school, one on Online Safety and the other on Culture. The Online Safety project came together as a main highlighted presentation at a Lakota assembly. The other project, “Celebrating Lakota’s Cultures, was presented to the student via FlipGrid. Where every student was invited to submit their video response to 1 of 3 prompts about their culture. After collecting all of the video clips the SCV group plans to create a comprehensive video to Celebrate Lakota’s Cultures for the end of the school year.
Our School Outreach Coordinator, Markese Walker-Brown at Truman Campus, connected with one of Truman’s school counselors during a recent visit on campus. Markese and the counselor discussed the unwavering need for Communities In Schools and the amazing ability to measure up and support students each year. Collaborating together, Markese and the counselor are working to create campus opportunities in the form of career pathways. One pathway they are working on in particular is an opportunity in the Barbering field. Markese enjoys every opportunity to work together as a team saying, “I truly appreciate and value the professional working relationship we have created because it allows us to collaborate and secure continued opportunities for our scholars.”