MAKING AN IMPACT…School community rallies to support struggling student

(Pictured: As a senior at Skyview High School, Caiti wanted to “give back” as a volunteer at the Foundation for VPS 2019 Annual Luncheon)

Teachers see challenges daily…students who come to school without basic necessities, facing additional barriers to learning. With support from donors, the Foundation for VPS can help change that scenario by directing resources so students get what they need, when they need it. And in Caiti’s case, receiving wrap-around support during her time of need made all the difference.

In September 2018, Caiti moved to Vancouver from Arizona, hoping for a healthier home environment to finish her senior year of high school. She moved in with her brother and his young family with little more than the clothes on her back. As winter approached, her Skyview High School classmates noticed Caiti did not have a warm coat and shared their concerns with their teachers who connected her with the Family-Community Resource Center (FCRC) coordinator, Brenda Starr. Brenda met with Caiti, providing her with food and clothing, and arranging for dental care. “Things were tight financially for Caiti,” said Brenda. “She was living with her brother and she was concerned about being a burden. Once we started meeting regularly, I ended up helping her with other needs. When I found out she wasn’t eating lunch because she didn’t have the money to pay for it, I connected her with the Homeless Outreach Promoting Education (HOPE) program which qualified her for free or reduced priced meals.” Brenda also gave her Goodwill vouchers so she could purchase some warmer clothes. “Caiti was in tears with gratitude. She couldn’t remember the last time she went shopping for herself. Here she was, a high school teenager so humble and excited about a trip to Goodwill.”

For Brenda and the district’s additional 19 FCRC coordinators, helping students like Caiti is just part of the job. “You don’t actually know what anyone has been through until you sit down and talk to them. Everyone has a story, and sometimes I get to be a part of making their story better,” said Brenda. Caiti acknowledged that these resources really made a big difference. “There were times that if I didn’t go to school, I probably wouldn’t have eaten that day.” With this help Caiti was thriving in her AP classes, working part-time, and looking forward to graduation.

Sadly, just three months into the school year, her brother suddenly died, his family moved out of the area, and Caiti was left heart-broken and homeless. Overcome with grief, she was ready to give up. “Nothing mattered to me anymore,” she said. “I didn’t care if I graduated or not, I just couldn’t go on.”

She went into the school office ready to drop out and return to an uncertain future in Arizona. But Skyview, FCRC, and Foundation staff rallied together to help Caiti get the resources she needed to stay in school. “They reminded me that my life doesn’t have to be over too,” she recalled. Her Skyview counselor helped her navigate a flexible schedule. Others stepped in to help her plan for life after high school. “I don’t think I would have graduated high school without their support,” said Caiti. “Life had just gotten too hard.”

Too many students face obstacles to learning due to poverty and circumstances beyond their control. But Caiti’s story at Skyview has a hopeful ending. Thanks to the help of Foundation resources and many caring individuals, Caiti graduated on time. She received a scholarship and is now a freshman at Western Washington University where she plans to double major in humanities and political science.

“I want to do something with my life that will make my brother proud. He was my biggest supporter,” she said. “He really believed in me and wanted me to chase my dreams. I want to make a difference in this world.”