Child First’s programming is a strategy towards an end. Each community school has a full-time community school coordinator that develops partnerships and services for each specific school community in addition to increasing parent and community engagement. Through their work and that of their partner organizations, the community school coordinator addresses needs such as: mental health, homelessness, food access, fatherhood and parenting classes, attendance and absenteeism, workforce development, academic supports, and adult education. One family at Robert W. Coleman Elementary School was supported through their experience with homelessness.
After numerous attempts to reach a homeless family, the community school coordinator had exhausted all avenues to locate this family of nine with 8 children, 6 of whom attended Robert W. Coleman. Finally in August, the mother who struggles with mental illness, called the school with the family’s new address. However, the family was now living in a hotel room in Baltimore County. The mother came to school and completed an application for homelessness services and transportation, but it would take at least 3 weeks for the children to receive bus transportation. In the interim, the community school coordinator shared the family’s situation with the team at Child First and learned of a grant for transportation for unique situations like this. Two cabs picked up the 6 children for 3 weeks – dropped them off at school by 7:00 am and returned at 2:25 pm for the trip back to the hotel in Baltimore County. By the fourth week, Baltimore City Schools provided bus transportation.
In addition, the community school coordinator was able to provide the children with school uniforms, school supplies, and food backpacks for the weekend and bi-weekly received food from the Maryland Food Bank. The family was adopted by Coppin State University for Christmas, and everyone in the family was given gifts. This family now has a home, and the children are able to use the mass transit bus to attend school.
Last school year, Child First community school coordinators leveraged over $1.6 M in financial and in-kind resources for their schools. Like the Robert W. Coleman family, these leveraged resources allow parents to access resources that meet their individual needs and support the stability of their families. Students win as well because expanded resources are brought to bear in the areas of additional academic mentors, innovative curriculum such as Project-Based Learning, and models through The Positive School Center that improve school culture and climate.