gmhTODAY 12 gmhToday Jan Feb 2017 - Page 44

Morgan Hill Unified School District Care Team (l to r) Jennifer Baez, Counselor at Jackson Academy and Live Oak; Aaron Duron, Counselor at Sobrato and Martin Murphy; Evelyn Alvarez, CARE Mobile Team; Andrea Bird, Lead Counselor; Jaclyn Snyder, CARE Mobile Team; and Linda Perez, Counselor at Britton and Live Oak. CARE: An Innovative Outreach Program Written By Andrea Bird, Morgan Hill Unified School District T he Coordinated Advocacy and Resources for Education (CARE) program was established by Morgan Hill Unified School District (MHUSD) a result of data-driven research conducted by the District to the needs of students, grades 6-12, who fall under the criteria of homeless, foster and socio- economically disadvantaged youth. In MHUSD there are over 300 known homeless youth, and more than 1,000 who are socio-economically disadvantaged. Established in August 2016, the CARE team’s mission is to imple- ment a sustainable outreach program aimed at removing obstacles to student achievement. These obstacles include insufficient access to food, clothing, basic hygiene and health services; transportation to and from school; and academic support beyond the classroom. Everyday things that most of us take for granted, are beyond the reach of many of Morgan Hill’s student families. The CARE team includes three counselors, each assigned to two of the District’s participating schools (Britton, Jackson Academy, Live Oak, Martin Murphy and Sobrato). The Team’s work includes looking into attendance concerns, conducting home visits, and developing personal relationships with student families, seeking to remove obstacles to academic success. The CARE program also employs a classified “Mobile team” of two who move throughout the District in support of site-based counselors. Our research shows that many student families are either unaware of services, or they become discouraged when the pro- cess to access those services is confusing, time-consuming, dif- ficult to navigate. Our research also shows that transportation is a 44 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN major hurdle for homeless and socio-economically disadvantaged youth. On referrals from site counselors and others, the Mobile team connects with families to ensure students are benefitting from free busing and free lunch for which they are eligible. Just by removing the transportation obstacle, we have enabled improved student attendance, engagement and academic performance. Acting on site counselor referrals, our Mobile team travels to local food pantries and “clothes closets,” providing student families with much-needed food, clothing, blankets and toiletries. Often they are able to respond within hours. Food staples are usually delivered to school sites for pick up, though a home delivery can be arranged. Food on the table, and warm, clean clothing truly make a difference. A key aspect of the CARE program is the establishment of tutoring centers at locations throughout the District. This Fall we launched two tutoring centers at local RV parks. Tutoring is provided by students from Sobrato and Live Oak high schools. Students helping students represents a non-threatening approach to academic team building. At the same time, tutors model educationally -valuable skills—focus, perseverance, stamina, and collaborative learning—which are vital to success in the 21 st century, from campus to career. The CARE team is privileged and delighted to serve Morgan Hill students. Every day is an adventure with unique situations that require unique, individualized solutions. We will continue evolving our program to support student families in need so their students can thrive in school. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2017