You Make A Difference: Recognizing a need and transforming a life

By Mariah McCleskey

As a Board Member of the Foundation for VPS and as a parent of three students, I’m grateful to be part of a community that is so deeply committed to helping all children thrive. If students do not come to school with what they need, learning will not happen. As a teacher in the district, I have witnessed first-hand the difference it makes when we work as a community to help vulnerable students connect to needed services and support.

Last spring, I was teaching an Intensive Literature class at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. The class had many students who speak English as a second language, including a seventh grade girl who I noticed seemed to be struggling. Repeatedly, I saw that when I gave lessons she was leaning in as if to try and hear. When I set the class free to begin to work, she seemed to struggle to get started. Knowing the student was an English language learner, I thought she could be confused. But even when I spoke with her in Spanish, I noticed the same signs that she could be struggling to hear.

I took her aside and asked, “Can you hear me?” She shook her head no. I told her, “I want you to know that we can get you some help. We need to get your hearing tested.”

I then shared my concerns with one of the school’s secretaries—who is someone who knows how to get things done. This led to the student being referred to the school nurse. The nurse did a pre-screening test and found that the student did have hearing challenges and needed further testing. The student’s family did not have health insurance, and she was referred to The Free Clinic of Southwest Washington. She was diagnosed with significant hearing loss, and fitted for hearing aids, which were funded by the Foundation for VPS. I’m happy to report that today she is doing well, making progress in reading, and is more confident with her English.

This story shows the power of a caring community, not just inside a school, but in the community at large. It took all of us: a teacher, a school secretary and nurse, a community organization, and supporters of this Foundation to transform one girl’s life. The fact is, when you support the Foundation for VPS you are having an impact on thousands of students across our community.

I can affirm that support for the Foundation for VPS makes a difference. It is the difference between a child getting help with urgent needs or suffering in silence, between a child struggling or thriving in school.