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School supply drive serves more than 1,000 DCSD students

HIGHLANDS RANCH – This summer, Douglas County families and organizations came together to make sure that our less-fortunate students have everything they need to make this a successful school year.

The Lend A Hand School Supply Drive, organized by the Douglas County Educational Foundation (DCEF), provided more than 1,000 Douglas County School District students with new backpacks brimming with school supplies.

DCEF Executive Director Jason Christensen says it is important that our students get a good start to the school year.

“We want our kids to be successful,” Christensen said. “For families that are living paycheck-to-paycheck, [back to school] can be a stressful time.  Being able to outfit the kids for school leaves one less thing the parents have to worry about.”

“This is one big lift off my shoulders,” said a single-mother who picked up backpacks for her fourth, fifth and eighth-grade students at the Strive to Thrive resource and service fair in July. “It is one big thing I don’t have to worry about.”

“It’s amazing,” she said, choking up as she expressed her gratitude. “There are no words.”

The woman said with no child support, it can be hard to make ends meet – even when she is working 50 hours a week.

“I’m living right now on about three or four dollars between paychecks. When I say things are tight, I am working hard and am barely paying the bills,” she said. “This means that I don’t have to give up another meal.”

Another mother at the event expressed similar sentiments.

“[School supplies are] very expensive and these are expenses that we cannot afford now,” she said. “This is not something I’ve done before. This is my first time. I recently lost my job, so this is really helpful to us right now, in our time of need.”

Many people may not think there is need in Douglas County, given its affluence. The county boasts the sixth highest median household income in the country according to Money Magazine. DCSD’s Homeless Liaison, Dawna Searcy, however, says she works with more than 900 homeless students across the District, including more than 600 who live in Douglas County.

“We have at least one homeless student in almost every single school, including charter schools, in our District. There is not one school that is immune in any region of the county,” Searcy said.

In many cases the students’ families are reeling from financial hardships.

“We talk to people every day who have issues with family breakups that cause housing loss, job losses, evictions, and foreclosures,” Searcy said.

Searcy helps to ensure that DCSD students who do not have a home are still able to enroll, attend, participate and succeed in our schools, as required by the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act.

To create stability in an otherwise chaotic situation, she can ensure a student can stay at their school—even if their family no longer has a home within the boundaries.

“A lot of times the families will tell us that school is the only facet of their life that is stable,” Searcy explained. “There is also the social-emotional component that goes with that. The students are able to keep the same friends, have the same teacher, the same homework and have the same building to go to everyday. That is pretty huge for a lot of our kids.”

Additionally, the District can also waive fees and utilize Title I funding to ensure that students can participate in activities, such as science fairs, activities and sports.

Finally, the Douglas County School District is part of the Community of Care network. This collaboration between government agencies, local non-profits, faith-based organizations and service providers that partner together to address issues of poverty and homelessness in Douglas County. The group organizes Strive to Thrive events in July and January every year, providing resources and assistance in signing up for Medicaid, SNAP benefits, disability and unemployment.

At the resource and service fair, DCSD staff handed out backpacks, answered parent questions and provided information about its Universal Prevention efforts.

 

 

Douglas County families that need support should utilize the following resources:

Douglas County Human Services
Community of Care
Douglas County School District Homeless Liaison

 

DCSD’s Homeless Liaison accepts financial donations from the community to support families, including grocery and fuel gift cards.

Additionally, the Wacky W bike ride on September 13, helps to raise money for next year’s school supply drive. 

 

 

August 11, 2015 | By rmbarber | Category:

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