From birth to higher education, from policy to practice, SchoolHouse Connection took major strides to improve educational and life outcomes for children and youth experiencing homelessness in 2018.
Looking back, we’re reminded of the power of partnerships, and of keeping a sharp focus on our mission: overcoming homelessness through education.
Below, you’ll find our Top 5 Accomplishments of 2018, as well as two additional lists:
- Top 5 by the Statistics: the most widely accessed and popular SHC activities and resources in 2018, based on user analytics.
- Top 5 Staff Highlights: the personal 2018 highlights of your SHC Team.
We hope that in reading these lists, you’ll be reminded of important achievements, discover new resources, and learn more about how we can work together in 2019 to help children, youth, and families have stronger futures.
Your support makes our work possible. We therefore invite you to be part of 2019’s accomplishments through a donation to SchoolHouse Connection.
Wishing you a Happy New Year!
The SchoolHouse Connection Team
Image above: The SchoolHouse Connection board and staff at a board retreat in Washington, DC.
#1 Raising Awareness, Increasing Support
Children and youth who experience homelessness are often invisible in their schools and communities. Their invisibility contributes to lack of awareness, which prevents meaningful action to support children and youth. One of our greatest accomplishments of 2018 was collaborating with three other national organizations to launch Education Leads Home, a national campaign to raise awareness and increase implementation of proven practices to improve outcomes for children and youth. The campaign will help us reach “beyond the choir” to achieve goals related to equitable participation in early childhood programs, a 90% high school graduation rate, and a 60% postsecondary attainment rate.
We partnered with Sesame Street in Communities on the launch of a new homelessness initiative for young children, parents, and providers, bringing unique and unprecedented coverage of early childhood and family homelessness to the public.
Yet another 2018 highlight was co-branding the fifth edition of Educating Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness with the American Bar Association. This best-selling ABA book is the most comprehensive resource on the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness available.
Visitors to our website hear directly from youth and practitioners through our “Guest Perspective” blog and receive timely information on policy, practice, and research.
#2 Providing Timely, Responsive, and Practical Help
- At SchoolHouse Connection, we listen closely, then work with practitioners to create tools and resources to meet their needs. In 2018, these partnerships resulted in a quick guide for counseling staff that was co-authored with a school counselor and school social worker; positive school discipline tips drawing insights from educators and youth; a brief and a template for extra-curricular participation modeled after our FAFSA template; and a one-page safety checklist to help “childproof” homeless shelters for young children. In total, we created over 20 new resources to help educators, early childhood providers, and homeless service providers implement law and policy. We conducted in-person trainings in 20 states, lead or participated in 34 webinars, and responded to hundreds of questions about individual children, youth, and families, many of which are archived in the most popular section of our website: “Q&A from Our Inbox.”
#3 Advancing National and State Policy Reform
- 2018 was a momentous year for our work to ensure that local, state, and federal systems recognize and prioritize the needs of children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness.
- At the federal level, we led efforts to secure:
- Unprecedented funding increases for the Education for Homeless Children and Youth program;
- $25 million for schools to support children and youth made homeless by the natural disasters of 2017;
- Provisions for outreach and tailored services for homeless students in the Career and Technical Education Act; and
- Provisions specifically for homeless youth (including a new school-based grant program) in the recently enacted national opioid legislation.
- We also testified at a Congressional hearing about the need to reform homeless assistance to better serve children, youth, and families, and organized and led a broad, diverse coalition of hundreds of local, state, and national groups to help pass the bill through the Financial Services Committee on a bipartisan basis.
- At the state level, we:
- Worked with advocates in Tennessee to secure successful passage of HB 2303, which allows children and youth of any age experiencing homelessness to obtain their birth certificate and state ID.
- Worked with Representative Mary Gonzalez on Texas HB 99, filed on the very first day for 2019 bill filing. HB 99 would provide college students experiencing homelessness with automatic eligibility for housing assistance and priority for student housing, and require colleges and universities to designate a liaison for students experiencing homelessness.
- Prepared additional policy proposals for the 2019 session in the areas of credit accrual, child care, minor consent, expungement of juvenile records, higher education, employment, and transportation in ten additional states.
- Trained close to 1,000 advocates in 44 states and DC on the nuts and bolts of policy advocacy, and produced many state advocacy tools.
Number of People Trained in Advocacy
Number of States - Advocacy Training
Number of People Trained in Advocacy via our Webinar Series
#4 Building Connections Between Early Care, Education, and Homeless and Housing Services
- We built stronger partnerships between early care, education, and homeless assistance services in 2018, facilitating connections at the local, state, and national level. We served as a steering committee member and policy co-chair for the National Network to End Family Homelessness and organized an education track at the National Network for Youth’s National Summit.
- We published tip sheets on early care and education advocacy for housing and homeless assistance providers, as well as on strategies for housing college students on and off campus. We offered webinars on partnering with housing authorities, housing homeless college students, and drop-in and residential services for pregnant and parenting youth.
#5 Integrating Young People into All Areas of Our Work
We provide direct support to over 100 young adults through our Youth Leadership and Scholarship Program, including helping students cross the finish line to their college graduation. In 2018, we made strong progress toward integrating our young leaders into all aspects of our work. Our young leaders participated in the launch of the Education Leads Home campaign, led SchoolHouse Connection webinars, spoke at state and local conferences, scored grant proposals, and participated in national research on homelessness and health risks. We also brought 16 young leaders to Washington DC, where they educated policymakers in a Congressional briefing and met with officials at the U.S. Department of Education. We will close 2018 by selecting ten new scholarship students, who will receive their award and join our family in 2019.
The below are the most widely accessed and popular SHC activities and resources in 2018, based on user analytics.
At SchoolHouse Connection, we provide many tools to help early care and education professionals implement law and policy. Here are some of our most popular resources:
- McKinney-Vento Act: Two-page Summary
- Sample Form Letter to Determine the Independent Student Status of Unaccompanied Homeless Youth
- Quick Guide for Counseling Staff Working with Students Experiencing Homelessness
- State Laws to Support Youth Experiencing Homelessness
- The New FAFSA is Out on October 1: Three Things You Can Do to Help Homeless and Foster Youth
Click here to access all of our resources.
SchoolHouse Connection always posts really informative articles and always has cool things going on.Dave Dorvilier, LICSW
We conduct webinars featuring expert national, state, and local presenters. Here are the five most-viewed and attended webinars:
- Special Education, Homelessness and Foster Care
- Child Care for Families Experiencing Homelessness: Lessons Learned and the Road Ahead
- Improving High School Graduation Rates for Students Experiencing Homelessness
- School Counseling Staff and Students Experiencing Homelessness: Tips and Strategies to Get to Graduation
- All the Facts About the Homeless Children and Youth Act
Click here to access all our archived webinars, organized by category.
Number of webinars in 2018
Number of state webinars
Number of webinar registrants
At SchoolHouse Connection, we receive many questions from educators, service providers, and the public about the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness. This year, at the request of multiple educators and providers, we have turned this Q&A feature into a printable compendium of legal interpretations and best practices, organized by subject categories.
1. We have a young lady who was unaccompanied in her senior year. That year, we provided her a verification form for her FAFSA application without a problem. This year, the financial aid office is asking for an updated letter. Can they require this? Can we provide it?
Answer: The financial aid office cannot require the updated letter from you. The financial aid administrator is required to make the independence determination in the absence of a letter from you. Particularly for students already at their university, the financial aid office should not be sending students back to the high school. AVG-117 makes this very clear.
However, you can send the updated letter, and practically speaking, it may be much easier for the student if you do. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has changed their guidance to financial aid administrators (FAAs), and also to liaisons. ED now specifically says that liaisons may continue to submit letters of verification for unaccompanied homeless youth in subsequent years, up to age 23, as long as liaisons have the information that is necessary to make the determination of their homeless and unaccompanied status, or their status as at risk of homelessness, unaccompanied, and self-supporting.
Please see the sidebar on Application and Verification Guide (AVG)-118 for the instruction to FAAs (you can just search for “liaison”). Also, see pp. 48-49, Q-2, for the same information provided to liaisons.
I think you could let the school know about this new guidance, and then provide them with an updated letter (as long as you have the information needed to verify that she is homeless and unaccompanied, OR that she is at risk of homelessness, unaccompanied, and self-supporting).
If you don’t have the information to make the determination, the FAA must make the determination.
2. Do we need to locate children experiencing homelessness younger than school-age if they do not have school-age siblings? What if we are aware of the child through other means? “Are there other preschool and early childhood provisions we should know about?”
Answer: LEAs must conduct outreach to identify and report data on all children and youth experiencing homelessness, including young children. Some strategies recommended by the U.S. Department of Education include collaborating with:
- Health centers and social service agencies, such as agencies that administer the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and other public benefits;
- Early childhood education providers, such as Head Start and Early Head Start programs; public or private preschool programs, which can be school or community based; public or private child care programs; family child care homes and home-based early childhood programs; and early childhood health and development providers, such as HHS/HRSA-funded Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV);
- School personnel; and
- Early intervention and special education programs (IDEA, Parts B and C). USED Guidance, March 2017, N-1.
Other partners that can help find families with young children experiencing homelessness include housing and homeless assistance programs, motels, domestic violence shelters and advocates, substance abuse programs, faith-based providers like Family Promise, and sources of food like soup kitchens and food pantries.
USED Guidance states: “N-4. Do McKinney-Vento Act requirements apply to homeless children attending preschool? To the extent that an LEA offers a public education to preschool children, including LEA-administered Head Start programs, an LEA must meet the McKinney-Vento Act requirements for homeless children in preschool, including ensuring that a homeless child remains in his or her public preschool of origin, unless a determination is made that it is not in the child’s best interest. (See sections 721(1), 722(g)(1)(F)(i), 722(g)(3)(I)).”
This means that if there is an opening in the preschool program, a child experiencing homelessness must be enrolled immediately, even if they do not have proof of immunizations or other documents typically required for enrollment. The McKinney-Vento Act is federal law, and therefore supersedes conflicting state law and regulations.
In addition, under the new federal child care law and regulations, states are required to establish a grace period for children experiencing homelessness to comply with immunization and other health and safety requirements. Homeless children must be allowed to receive child care services during the grace period, while families work to meet health and safety requirements. In addition, federally-funded child care agencies are required to help families comply with immunization and other requirements during the grace period, and providers can receive payment during the grace period. Here is a link to a summary of those rules: https://www.schoolhouseconnection.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/CCDFSummary.pdf
We recommend talking to your State McKinney-Vento Coordinator and CCDF state administrator to learn more about how the state is complying with those new rules. The CCDF regulations also require training and outreach on homelessness, so it could be a good opportunity to cross-train on McKinney-Vento, preschool, and child care more generally.
3. We have charter schools that are not their own LEAs. Several contract with our transportation office to bus students to their schools, while others offer no school bus transportation. What are the transportation requirements for charter schools under McKinney-Vento?
Answer: Charter schools are subject to the same transportation provisions as any public school, whether they are their own LEA or part of another LEA. They are required to provide school of origin transportation. In addition, for children for whom the charter is not their school of origin, charter schools are required to provide comparable transportation. Those are two separate and different requirements. (The school of origin requirement is in section 722(g)(1)(J)(iii) of the law, and the comparable transportation for non-school of origin transportation is in section 722(g)(4)(A) of the law.)
Whether the charter school generally provides bussing to students does not matter when it comes to school of origin transportation for McKinney-Vento students, because school of origin transportation is a requirement under McKinney-Vento. It is not a comparable service— it is beyond comparable. The specific type of school of origin transportation provided depends on the age of the child and the options available. For older students who can access the city bus safely, bus passes might work perfectly. If parents have vehicles and are able to transport their children, gas assistance is a great option. Taxis, school buses or other arrangements will be necessary in other circumstances.
For charter schools that are part of your LEA, ultimately your LEA is responsible. Contracts and payment arrangements your LEA has with the charter school are outside the purview of McKinney-Vento; under McKinney-Vento, the bottom line is that transportation is provided in compliance with the law, and internal payment arrangements can work however the charter or your district set that up. For those charter schools that are their own LEA, they are responsible. In those cases, your district may split the cost with the charter, but again, those specifics are up to you to work out.
4. Can McKinney-Vento or Title I set-aside funds be used to pay for credit recovery for a MV student? Not to “get ahead,” but only for the purposes of catching up with classes that the student did not pass earlier.
Answer: The short answer is yes, both McKinney-Vento funds, and the Title I Part A homeless set aside funds, may be used for this purpose.
The U.S. Department of Education guidance states that Title I Part A set aside funds may be used for homeless students if the services are “reasonable and necessary to assist homeless students to take advantage of educational opportunities.”
Credit recovery certainly fits that description.
Also, two authorized activities in the McKinney-Vento Act speak to this issue:
- The provision of tutoring, supplemental instruction, and enriched educational services that are linked to the achievement of the same challenging State academic standards as the State establishes for other children and youths. 42 U.S.C. 11433(d)(1).
- The provision of services and assistance to attract, engage, and retain homeless children and youths, particularly homeless children and youths who are not enrolled in school, in public school programs and services provided to non homeless children and youths. 42 U.S.C. 11433(d)(7).
Lastly, ESSA put new emphasis on credit recovery by requiring States to have “procedures to identify and remove barriers that prevent students from receiving appropriate credit for full or partial coursework satisfactorily completed while attending a prior school, in accordance with State, local, and school policies.” 11432(g)(1)(F)(ii). School district liaisons are required to implement these procedures. 11432(g)(6)(A)(x).
Although this provision does not speak directly to the situation raised in your question—because the ESSA provision deals with credits for courses fully or partially completed—it reflects a strong Congressional policy in support of assistance with credit recovery.
5. We are working with an unaccompanied youth who had to leave his stepfather’s house after his mother died. He is staying on friends’ couches. Suddenly, stepdad wants us to report the student as a runaway and complete paperwork so stepdad can continue getting child support and social security benefits. I understand we--as the school district--should focus on “retention,” but does this student have any rights?
Answer: Yes, both the school and the student have rights in this situation. First, regarding the runaway report: It’s not the role of the school to make runaway reports. Parents make runaway reports regarding their children to law enforcement. So the stepfather can make a report, and should not ask the school to do that. If a runaway report is made to law enforcement, and the school is aware of the report, the school has to contact law enforcement or child protective services or the parent. The purpose of the contact is to let someone know where the youth is. In this case, the stepdad knows where the youth is. The stepdad can go to law enforcement and tell them where the youth is. The school does not need to be involved, and in fact should not be involved. This is a family matter that the stepdad needs to deal with, not the school.
In addition, the McKinney-Vento Act requires schools to remove barriers to identification, enrollment, and retention in school. 42 U.S.C. § 11432(g)(1)(I). Calling the police in this situation would present a tremendous barrier to identification, enrollment, and retention and would violate the McKinney-Vento Act.
The school also is not required to complete any paperwork related to child support. In fact, I would suggest your district speak with an attorney before completing any such paperwork. I suspect the paperwork requires the school to verify information about the support the stepdad provides to the youth. Since you have identified the student as an unaccompanied youth, it would not be appropriate for you to provide the court with information stating the stepdad is supporting the student.
Assuming the student is 16 years old or older, the student can get social security benefits transferred to his own name. He will need to do that at a social security office. If you (or someone else appropriate from school) could accompany him, or at least give him a letter on your letterhead describing his situation, that would be very helpful. He can get an appointment at the Social Security office by calling 800-772-1213.
Hopefully, at least the youth will able to switch payment of the Social Security benefits. The youth also can switch Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, if stepdad is getting any of those.
# of Questions received in 2018
We gain invaluable insights from school district liaisons, state coordinators, service providers and young people. Here are the most viewed essays:
- Homelessness: They Just Don’t Get It – By Destiny Dickerson, SHC Scholar, majoring in Psychology in San Diego State University.
- Not on the List: How HUD Homeless Policy Leaves Children Behind – By Jani Koester, President of the Dane County WI Homeless Services Consortium Board of Directors, Resource Teacher with Madison Metropolitan School District’s Transition Education Program
- Want to Help Students Experiencing Homelessness Go to College? Take Them There. – By Kylee Fuhr, District Homeless Liaison, St. Lucie Public Schools, Florida
- Dorm Room Dreamz: Taking Action to Address College Homelessness – By Brandy S. Gros M.A., Founder/CEO, Dorm Room Dreamz L3C
- Why Career and Technical Education Can be a Perfect Fit for Students Experiencing Homelessness – By DJ QuirinMa, Federal Programs Data Analyst; Christy Hendricks, Data Control Specialist for CTE; and Heather Denny, State Coordinator for Homeless Education; Montana Office of Public Instruction.
“I did not sleep in a tent, or on a park bench, but I was still homeless. There are many students and people who are living just like me and deserve to be validated in their homeless status. We have already lost so much. We deserve to be recognized.”Destiny Dickerson
“I was astonished to learn that we had 106 McKinney-Vento seniors registered, but we had never arranged a tour of our local institute of higher education, Indian River State College. I knew I had to figure out a way to get these students interested in college and aware of the benefits of pursuing their undergraduate education…”Kylee Fuhr
We provide timely information on federal and state policy, new resources, research, and local and state guest perspectives on innovative practices and programs. Here are the newsletters that were read the most:
- Birth Certificates & IDs for Homeless Minors; June Webinars
- We would like you to meet…
- Breaking News: Action Needed by April 13
- SHC is Hiring; 2018 Calendar; Webinar on Native American Students
- State Policies on Homelessness
Check out all of our newsletters here.
Number of newsletters
2017 brought new insights on homelessness from research. Here are some of the most impactful and important studies:
- New Research Reinforces Connections Among Homelessness, Childhood, and Education
- Youth Homelessness and Higher Education: An Analysis of FAFSA Data
- Youth Homelessness is Family Homelessness
- Higher Education Matters: Three New Studies
- Risk and Resilience: Differences in Risk Factors and Health Outcomes Between Homeless and Non-Homeless Students in 2017 YRBS Data
Check out all of our research here.
2018 was one for the books – we had so many cool things going on, here’s the top 5:
- The Launch of Education Leads Home Campaign
- Sesame Street
- Youth Summit in Washington DC
- Homeless Children & Youth Act Hearing
- National Network for Youth Education Track
#1 Education Leads Home
We launched the Education Leads Home campaign at SXSW EDU 2018 in Austin, Texas. Education Leads Home is the only national campaign focused on closing educational achievement and attainment gaps for homeless students. The goals are:
- By 2026, young children experiencing homelessness will participate in quality early childhood programs at the same rate as their housed peers.
- A 90% high school graduation rate for homeless students by 2030.
- A 60% post-secondary attainment rate for homeless students by 2034.
This campaign is made possible by our generous sponsors: Deutsche Bank, Raikes Foundation, Youth Hope Foundation, and The California Wellness Foundation.
- Launched campaign at SXSW EDU in March 2018
- Presented at a panel at SXSW EDU – The Invisible Million: Homeless Students in the U.S.
- Launched State Partnerships grant program
- Completed the first national analysis of 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) data and presented it, with policy and practice recommendations, at the 2018 APPAM conference in Washington, DC.
Number of Education Leads Home conferences already scheduled in 2019.
– SXSW EDU 2019
– MENTOR 2019
– NHCH 2019
– ELECT 2019
Image above: Katie Brown, our Education Leads Home Program Manager (far right) and Elaine Williams, SchoolHouse Connection Young Leader (second from left) presenting a paper on the new 2017 YRBS data at the 2018 Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management (APPAM) conference.
#2 Sesame Street
Sesame Street Workshop launched a national initiative on family homelessness to bring awareness and support to young children and their parents who are homeless, and those who serve them, including early childhood programs, schools, and service providers. Lily, a sweet and resilient 7-year-old muppet whose family experienced homelessness, is featured throughout the new resources, which include a storybook, videos, activities, and materials for providers.
Sesame Street in Communities hosted an interactive conversation on Thursday, December 13, with a panel of experts to raise nationwide awareness about homelessness, its effects on children, and ways providers can help. Barbara Duffield was one of the panelists.
#3 Youth Summit in Washington DC
At the 2018 SchoolHouse Connection DC Summit, SchoolHouse Connection’s Young Leaders shared their wisdom, insights, and experiences with congressional and U.S. Department of Education policymakers in Washington DC. The youth traveled from Alaska, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Washington state. All of the young people have experienced, or are experiencing homelessness, have graduated from high school and are either in college or recently completed college.
#4 House Hearing on the Homeless Children & Youth Act
On June 6, the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance held a hearing to review the Homeless Children and Youth Act (H.R. 1511).
- Barbara Duffield, Executive Director, SchoolHouse Connection
- Kat Lilley, Deputy Executive Director, Family Promise of Colorado Springs
- Millie Rounsville, Chief Executive Officer, Northwest Wisconsin Community Services Agency Inc. of Superior, WI
- Steve Berg, Vice President of Programs and Policy, National Alliance to End Homelessness
A key topic of the hearing was how the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) definition of homelessness creates barriers to assisting children, youth, and families who experience homelessness.
#5 National Network for Youth Education Track
We co-convened an education track at the National Network for Youth’s fifth annual National Summit on Youth Homelessness, March 19-20, in Washington DC. The sessions were designed to bridge policy and practice by featuring innovative practices and strategies with expert panelists. Topics include:
- Getting to Graduation: Dropout Prevention and Re-engagement
- Post-Secondary Education: Practical Strategies to Promote Access and Success
- A Two-Generation Approach: Support for Young Parents and Their Children
At SchoolHouse Connection, we believe that young people are the experts on their experiences, needs and strengths. We are also proud to offer a scholarship program. The program provides scholarships to youth who have experienced homelessness to ensure their completion of a post-secondary education program; builds a stable peer and adult support network; and offers young people meaningful opportunities to engage in advocacy.
Types of assistance provided to our young leaders include food, clothes, housing, books, beds, mental health care, medical care, legal help, tax help, transportation, job support, pillows, calculators, computers, GRE fees, grad school applications, and tuition.
The biggest impact SchoolHouse Connection had on me is making me realize that I’m not alone in the world with my story. When I first became a part of SchoolHouse Connection, I got to meet other people who had very similar stories to mine and some of them are way more difficult than I ever experienced and it humbled me as a person. It had made me grateful for everything I’ve been through. It honestly made me who I was because it made me realize that the stuff I’ve been through made me who I was, and that I could be successful. And the people I got to meet through SchoolHouse Connection, it was very humbling, all of it.Jamie Warren, SHC Young Leader
Number of SHC Young Leaders who graduated college in 2018
Dollar amount of scholarships awarded
Dollar amount of college completion support
Dollar amount of external scholarships awarded
Times we provided emergency assistance
Articles of our Young Leaders in the News
This story originally appeared on UT News. Engineering is science put into action. It is about designing solutions to problems that affect the quality of modern life. Mirka Mendez, a petroleum engineering senior at The University of Texas at Austin, knows personally...
By Eliana Perozo, SHC Young Leader. This story originally appeared on Youth Today. “School was my getaway, my chance to be in a routine, to know what was coming, to have a small sense of stability and control. But at 12 years old, I was convinced that my bad luck and misfortune were my own fault. My teachers did little to tell me otherwise.”
By Aseret Hesse, SHC Young Scholar. This story originally appeared on ENDPAIN. “Coming from a broken home, full of drug abuse, alcoholism, and child abuse, I’ve seen the worst of people. But because of this, I grew up and matured knowing exactly who I never want to be.”
By Latte Harris, SHC Young Leader. Latte Harris graduated from Evergreen High School in Vancouver, Washington. She is majoring in sociology at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. This story originally appeared on Homeroom, the official blog of the U.S. Department of Education.
By Latte Harris, SHC Young Leader. This story originally appeared on SchoolHouse Washington’s “Collaboratory” series highlighting first person stories and voices from the field., and has been posted here with permission. “It brought me immense comfort. I was immediately soothed with the idea that I was not completely alone in this struggle of trying to adhere to mainstream society, a place where I have to wear a mask in order to navigate both homelessness and higher education while still trying to express myself in what is deemed an appropriate fashion.”
Top 5 SHC Staff Highlights
- My heart was stolen by a green-eyed, purple-nosed, pink-skinned muppet named Lily, who communicates hope and healing to children and families experiencing homelessness. Technically, the launch of the Sesame Street initiative on family homelessness was the culmination of seven years of my relationship with Sesame Workshop, an organization for which my respect is boundless. But it felt like a full circle moment for my entire life, personally and professionally, from my own childhood to the present day.
- The Education Leads Home (ELH) campaign had its debut as the opening event for SXSW EDU, the trend-setting national education conference. With our partners from Civic Enterprises, ICPH, and America’s Promise Alliance, we kicked off a national campaign to build awareness and spark action toward three ambitious but attainable education goals, one for each stage of development. The image etched in my mind is that of our SHC scholars and peer leaders on stage, the ELH logo behind them, a cheering crowd in front of them, and in between, nothing but pride and joy and triumph. Those young people gave us a clear call to action and a blueprint for the future.
- Congressional hearings are not known to be riveting events. But the June 6 hearing on the Homeless Children and Youth Act (HCYA) was a remarkable occasion. Voices that are typically drowned out were front and center: the voice of parents, the voice of providers. I was honored to testify next to Kat Liley and Millie Rounsville, who spoke truth to power in their testimonies and in their unflinchingly honest responses to Members of Congress. The clock ran out before HCYA could get to the House floor this year, but the hearing’s honest exposition of what homelessness looks like for children, youth, and families – and its connection to adult homelessness – is now part of the legislative record and will build momentum moving forward.
- Thirteen young leaders, four peer leaders, one family. This year’s SHC Youth Leadership Summit brought together young leaders who had not seen each other – or us – for almost two years. We spent three powerful days reconnecting, deepening our relationships, and educating policymakers on homelessness and education. For me, the phrase “permanent connection” is embodied by our YLS young leaders – the healing and strength that come from knowing that there are people you can count on, always, people who will meet new challenges with you as you transition into adulthood, and throughout adulthood. Our young leaders continue to teach me, and to inspire me. I may never master Snapchat, but I am awed by the power of peer support and the lasting love of our YLS family.
- SchoolHouse Connection added two team members this year, tremendously increasing our capacity and impact. I’m extremely proud of how our SHC staff has worked hard to cross-pollinate among program areas. I recall a recent staff meeting where I watched this interaction take place: state policy informing federal policy (and vice versa); early childhood informing higher education (and vice versa); K-12 informing early care and higher (and vice versa); youth homelessness informing family homelessness (and vice versa). I realized how much progress we’ve made in integrating our respective areas into a unified, coordinated approach. It may be cliché to say “it’s all connected,” but if we can achieve this integration internally, we stand a much better chance of effecting it externally.
- Meeting advocates from around the country as I traveled to New Jersey, Indiana Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas and Utah to work on state policy changes to support youth experiencing homelessness.
- Presenting with a panel of our Young Leaders at the national conference of the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness in New York City. It’s always an honor to share the mike with our young people and listen to their advice and experiences!
- Celebrating accomplishments, from record federal funding for McKinney-Vento to the passage of Tennessee’s HB 2303, with SchoolHouse Connection’s smart and committed team.
- Meeting SchoolHouse Connection’s first cohort of scholars. Their energy, intelligence and determination were beautiful to witness and share.
- Watching SchoolHouse Connection approach its second birthday with a growing Board, full staff, clean audit, and more young people than ever actively co-leading our work.
- Seeing the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (ECLKC) training modules on homelessness released and the wonderful reception they received from the field.
- Monthly meetings with colleagues from Head Start Collaboration, Head Start and Child Care National Centers for our Learning Community on Homelessness. What a terrific and rich network. I always learn so much.
- Getting to know many creative and committed early childhood and housing providers in North Carolina through our grant work with the NC Division of Child Development and Early Education. We are making great progress toward our goal of outreaching to families to increase access to quality child care. It has been a learning experiencing working with the Balance of State structure which covers a vast and primarily rural area of the state.
- Working with the SchoolHouse Connection team is a true blessing. What authentic and gifted colleagues. SchoolHouse Connection is off to an amazing start and I look forward to exploring future efforts together with my team. What a crew!
- Seeing Big Bird and all of his friends on Sesame Street ensure that the voices of babies and young children are included in the discussion about homelessness at tables across our nation.
- The ability to convey the message of homelessness and education into various formats that are digestible to liaisons, service providers, and the general public.
- Was present at the launch of Education Leads Home campaign at SXSW EDU in Austin, Texas. I got to witness months of hard work from four organizations come to fruition.
- Had the opportunity to witness the power of youth voice as they share their stories with policymakers in Washington DC.
- Got to meet 10 new scholars to SHC in Austin, Texas where they were presented with their scholarships. Their resilience and sense of maturity from having gone through so much at such a young age inspired me to do more for them.
- Always being in the front lines of communications for SHC – from the launch of Sesame Street in Communities’ new childhood homelessness materials and Education Leads Home, to creating various content and hosting webinars.
- Convening at The Reading High School and Alvernia University – First time presenting and was encouraged to have learned so much since joining the team and to see changes implemented on a more local level.
- #RealCollege conference – Got to see the amazing work people from all around the country are doing to support students experiencing homelessness.
- Meeting our young leaders – This reminded me and reaffirmed why I work in higher education. They are such a strong, inspiring, and motivated group of individuals and it was an honor to meet them and hear their stories on the Hill.
- Being an advocate – Responded to multiple student requests and questions about FAFSA verification statuses.
- Conversations across the country – Having over 60 conversations with those helping and supporting students experiencing homelessness and creating implementation tools/tip sheets.
- Through blood, sweat, and a few tears, I drafted an 18-page report on the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey results from 17 states–revealing the staggering prevalence of youth homelessness and the disproportionate health and mental health risks of youth experiencing homelessness.
- I co-presented our research findings with young adult leader Elaine Williams in front of a roomful of discerning academics at the annual APPAM conference and brought much-needed real-life context to the sobering statistics
- We invited applications for our inaugural cohort of State Partnerships on Student Homelessness Project participants. Hawaii, Oregon, Nevada, Kentucky, Washington, and California, will launch their proposals at the beginning of 2019.
- I helped draft a series of documents to support homeless assistance providers, liaisons, the general public, parents, and educators effectively leverage the new Sesame Street in Communities content on child homelessness.
- I helped position ELH to get the word out about our work in 2019 by securing admission to present at 4 upcoming conferences.
We provide in-person training all over the nation, from Virginia to Washington State. In 2018, we conducted over 30 training sessions in 20 states on topics ranging from federal and state policy, McKinney-Vento and ESSA implementation, immigrant students, higher education, and early childhood programs.
Image above: Barbara attending the 2018 Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness conference in New York City.
Image above: Barbara and Jillian presenting at Alvernia University, Reading, Pennslyvania.
Image above: Grace participated in the 2018 Building Early Links for Learning (BELL) Forum in Philadelphia, PA.
Image above: Barbara and Katie at upstream chit-chat with OZZIE folks in New York City.
Image above: Barbara and Jillian presented at the #RealCollege conference in Philadephia, PA.
Image above: Katie and our young leader, Elaine Williams presenting at the 2018 Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management (APPAM) conference.
Image above: Barbara and Grace presenting at the 2018 Child Care Aware of America Symposium.
Image above: Patricia reconnecting with Laurel Weir, former colleague at the National Law Center for Homelessness & Poverty, and now Homeless Services Coordinator for the San Luis Obispo County Department of Social Services.
Image above: Patricia conducting a training for liaisons, school administrators, and support staff in San Luis Obispo County, CA.
SchoolHouse Connection is very helpful! I appreciate all that you and your staff do to help all of our homeless students!Colette Ullrich