Seattle is Lumping All its Homeless Children Into One School

A photo of Lowell Elementary School, located in Seattle's Capitol Hill district.

Lowell Elementary School, located in Seattle’s Capitol Hill district.
Photo credit: Joe Wolf via Flickr Creative Commons.

Seattle students who live in Eastlake mostly go to Tops K-8, a highly rated elementary school with a park-like yard and a lake view. Unless those students’ home address is Peer80 Homeless Shelter, barely four blocks away. For all of the homeless shelters in metropolitan Seattle, the assigned elementary school is Lowell Elementary, up on Capitol Hill.

Seattle’s best estimate is that 7% of the youths in their school district lack a permanent address. At Lowell, it’s slightly over 20%. More than one in five students at this school don’t have stable housing.

Absolutely no one likes it there, it seems. Students report violence, bullying, and apathetic staff. And the staff claims they aren’t adequately supported to take care of students with special needs. The high turnover rate is both a symptom and an exacerbating factor; 15 teachers and staff members have left since the beginning of 2017.

Homeless students are more likely than the average to be in need of special accommodations. There are students with untreated mental and physical disabilities, including PTSD. A large percentage of students barely speak English. But funding matters have prevented the school from having a stable support staff.

“You got to go through the shelter life, and then you go to school with all that stuff inside: ‘Why are we still here? Why do we still have to go through this communal eating? Why don’t we have our own stuff?’ And they’re bitter, and they’re hurt, and they’re angry,” said the mother of several Lowell students.

“And so when they arrive into the classroom, they bring all that angst with them, and for the most part don’t come in with those coping skills to kind of get them to a place where they can access the learning,” said former assistant principal Na’Ceshia Holmes, one of the staff who quit this year.

With more training and a dedicated mental health staff, perhaps this school could be a light for students. But as it is, funneling the city’s growing population of homeless youth into one inadequate school is simply harmful.

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Philadelphia Eagles Player Donates Salary to Educational Orgs

A photo of a Philadelphia Eagles jersey, helmet, and NFL football on a field.

Photo credit: dean bertoncelj / Shutterstock

Chris Long, for those who don’t follow football, is the defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles. He currently enjoys a two year contract worth $4.5 million dollars. It’s more money than any one person needs, and Long seems to realize that. That’s why he pledged to give the earnings from his first six games of this year to fund two scholarships for students from his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia. Now, he’s giving the rest of this year’s checks to a new campaign founded by himself and his wife (separate from his Chris Long Foundation).

“My wife and I have been passionate about education being a gateway for upward mobility and equality,” said Long in a statement released to the Associated Press. “I think we can all agree that equity in education can help affect change that we all want to see in this country.”

Pledge 10 for Tomorrow, the new campaign, gives funding to organizations that make education more accessible to underserved youth communities. Long has chosen four organizations in three cities: St. Louis, Boston, and Philly (the cities where he’s played). He is pledging 10 game checks to the foundation, and is encouraging fans to join him to “pledge 10” (either ten recurring payments, or simply $10).

So far, Pledge 10 has raised just over $20,000 along with Long’s donation. Donors get to choose which of the four organizations they want their money to go to (one in each city, and a general fund). The organization with the most donations will receive an additional $50,000.

“There’s a lot of opportunities to help out and they’re wonderful organizations,” Long said. “We have such a great platform as football players and hopefully fans get behind it.”

In a world where athletes are paid more than the annual budget of most schools, it is a relief to see someone on Long’s platform not only speaking up for education, but putting his money where his mouth is.

Connecticut School Cuts “Grandma” Program

An elderly black woman.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

For more than twenty years, students in Bridgeport, Connecticut have had a little something special in their schools: a crew of foster grandparents serving as teachers’ aids. The volunteer program, overseen by the Bridgeport Child and Family Guidance Center, has placed volunteers over the age of 55 in classrooms, paying them a small stipend with allowances for lunch and transport.

“They come in to our classrooms and assist three to five students with help in reading or math or even social problems they may have,” said Amelia Perroni, a first-grade teacher in one of the schools within the program. “They’re an extra pair of hands in the classroom.”

But extra hands no more. The first week of October, the “grandmas” as their charges call them, were told by letter that the funding for their program has been cut, effective immediately. The 83 participants, many of whom have volunteered with the program since its inception, weren’t even given time to say goodbye to their students.

“It’s very sudden,” said Audrey Fernandes, a volunteer for more than half a decade and a retired paraprofessional herself. “‘Pack your stuff and get out.’”

Teachers at the school are furious. The volunteers, who made $2 per hour as a stipend, worked one-on-one with students who desperately needed it.

“They get paid a measly amount of money. We have people in the upper echelons (of the public schools) making big bucks, and we’re cutting a program. It doesn’t make sense,” said Mary Krotki, a fifth grade teacher. “It’s very important for urban kids. It’s another connection some of them don’t have at home.”

Michael Patota, president of the Child and Family Guidance Center and the one who made the decision to cut the program, recognized the contributions of the volunteers in their severance letter, but insists that the bottom line makes the program unsustainable.

Student Spolight: Zuriel Oduwole

A photo of Zuriel Oduwole taken at the Women in Film 2015 Crystal + Lucy Awards.

Zuriel Oduwole at the Women in Film 2015 Crystal + Lucy Awards.
Photo credit: Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

When Zuriel Oduwole was twelve years old, she became the youngest producer and editor to have her work shown commercially when a film she made screened in four countries. But her work isn’t entertainment. Oduwole is on a mission, and so far, she’s brought that mission to the leaders of twenty four nations and counting.

Oduwole is a first-generation American citizen, born in Los Angeles to a Mauritian mother and Nigerian father. She was 10 when she made her first film, a documentary for a school assignment called “The Ghana Revolution.” In making it, she met with two former presidents of Ghana at the embassy in Los Angeles, Jerry Rawlings and John Kufuor.

The next year, she found her passion: educational reform, especially for girls.

“I have spoken to presidents and prime ministers about making policies to ensure that girls go to school so that they don’t get married at a very young age like 12 or 13 which happens in some countries. So I have spoken to presidents mostly in the African continent like Nigeria, Tanzania, South Sudan, Kenya, Liberia and also some here in Europe as well like Croatia and Malta,” Oduwole said in an interview with Africa News.

Her 2014 documentary (made at age 11) “A Promising Africa,” won the 7th grader a place in Business Insider’s list of “World’s Most Powerful Person at Every Age” and Elle Magazine’s “33 Women Who Changed the World.”

Oduwole’s not done producing. She puts out at least two documentaries a year, though even now she’s only 15. Since 2015, she’s been working with Proctor and Gamble towards the visibility of women’s educational issues, including their campaign “Unstoppable Like A Girl.”

This all began with a school assignment. While her career goals take Oduwole all over the world, she’s made a point to stay in school herself. She’s currently a sophomore in high school.