In September 2018 sea.citi and Communities in Schools of Seattle (CIS) launched their collaboration, greenlight. greenlight was formed to better connect low-income schools in Seattle with the growing innovation economy. Thirty-five employee volunteers representing our founding companies arrived at Aki Kurose Middle School to distribute school supplies, play games, and share stories about working in tech.
The launch included a campaign to source financial contributions that would support students and their families; removing barriers to education and enhancing student experiences. The response was fruitful, raising nearly $50,000 allowing us to help students across Seattle on their educational journey. Funds raised were placed in stewardship of CIS to ensure timely response to immediate needs students faced. We’re pleased to share three stories with you.
POOLING RESOURCES AND HELPING WITH FAMILY SUPPORT
CIS Site Coordinators from Van Asselt Elementary and South Lake High School teamed up to provide wraparound support for a family who nearly lost everything when a fire took their home this winter. While in transition, the family of eight was staying in their daughter’s one bedroom apartment. The eldest daughter quickly fell behind on rent due to missed work and began skipping school to either pick up work shifts or take care of her youngest siblings while mom and dad searched for housing. The younger students didn’t want to go to school because the only clothes they were able to salvage from their home all smelled like smoke. Between the trauma of losing their home and the immediate needs they were facing, the family was in crisis.
CIS Site Coordinators quickly realized that the family had students in both of their schools and they began coordinating and pooling their resources together to support them. CIS was able to purchase new clothing for the whole family and provide financial support to launder the clothes they still had. They connected the family to housing resources and additional emergency financial assistance. The high school coordinator was able to cover the eldest daughter’s rent for the month so that she could focus on her family and keep coming to school. With one child’s birthday coming up, the elementary coordinator went out and got a birthday present so that mom and dad had something to give them and could regain some sense of normalcy during this time. All students were back in the classroom and attending school consistently within two weeks of the CIS team pulling together a community of support and resources.
BASIC NEEDS AFTER AN UNEXPECTED DEATH
A CIS Site Coordinator learned that the father of one of the families they serve recently died. The team immediately reached out to the mother and students to discuss ways they could support the family during this time. The Site Coordinator discovered that the family was behind on utility payments and was able to pay for an overdue light bill. CIS paid the outstanding bill and was also able to provide the family with gift cards to a nearby grocery store.
Once these basic needs were addressed, the team then turned to supporting the students at school. The Site Coordinator and an AmeriCorps member met with the siblings one on one to provide supportive guidance and mentorship. The students opened up slowly to the site coordinator about the loss, about their day to day life at school, and navigating life as a young adolescent. These students are now attending school more often and beginning to set academic goals with their CIS team members. The CIS team continues to connect with the mother on a weekly basis to relay important information regarding her students’ educational opportunities and also provide guidance or direct resources to help the family continue their journey through this hardship.
A SNOWBOARDING TRIP FOR MIDDLE SCHOOLERS
Outdoor sports like skiing and snowboarding can be difficult to come by in Seattle without the resources to drive to the mountains, buy a lift ticket, rent gear, and pay for lessons. This winter, Communities in Schools coordinated an all-expenses paid snowboarding trip for students at Aki Kurose Middle School. For five Wednesdays this winter, CIS rented a charter bus and drove 15 students out of Seattle to Snoqualmie Pass.
At Snoqualmie, CIS partnered with SOS Outreach, a non-profit that engages at-risk youth in outdoor experiences. SOS provided Aki Kurose students with snow pants, coats, gloves, and goggles as well as snowboarding lessons. CIS covered the cost of food, transportation, registration fees, and rental gear. On the mountain, SOS mentors and CIS chaperones walked with students through the basics of how to put on bindings, how to stand up on the board, how to turn, and how to fall. A few of the students had gone on the CIS snowboarding trip the year before, but most had never snowboarded before. Each day, students demonstrated their interest in snowboarding and their ability to be resilient in challenging situations. Over time, all the students got more comfortable and everyone eventually went up on the chair lift! One student recalled, “My favorite part was going on the chairlift. My adrenaline was pumping, and I was scared but also excited. I was especially proud when I was able to get off the chairlift without falling!”
Each day SOS Outreach mentors and CIS chaperones engaged students with one of their core values. The core values included courage, integrity, discipline, wisdom, and compassion. Students used examples from their experience learning to snowboard to connect with the core values each day, expanding their social emotional learning. Students also participated in goal setting, making goals to improve their grades or attendance in order to go on the trip. There was a noticeable improvement in attendance among several students who usually are chronically absent or late to school during the weeks of the snowboard trips.
Overall, this was an amazing opportunity for everyone involved. One student exclaimed, “The snowboard trip is something I’ll remember for a long time. I hope I can go again next year!” Hopefully with the continued support of our partner organizations, grants, and other funding opportunities, Communities in Schools will be able to continue to provide this opportunity to Aki Kurose students in the future.