At the beginning of the school year, we heard that Seattle Public Schools would be returning to distance-learning, so we reached out to the Community Partnerships department to see how we could help. What followed was the development of a satellite Resource Center at Nathan Hale High School to provide families with holistic family services including much needed Social Services navigation support.
We had a chance to speak with Nathan Hale High School Principal William Jackson and Community & Family Engagement Specialist Tina Tudor about the challenges facing students and families and how FamilyWorks is positioned to support that community:
When the pandemic hit, how did it change your relationship with SPS families? How are you hoping FamilyWorks can help as an outreach partner with keeping those relationships strong?
William Jackson: When the pandemic first hit, I look at it like Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs, where everything on the top bars of transcendence and self-actualization, we were meeting that before or we were hoping to, but then we just dropped to that sense of biological and physiological needs and safety. We needed to provide that for our families and provide that for our students. So we were really in this sense of, “how do we provide food? How do we provide support?” We did have what we call now Needs Funds, but we also needed to figure out how to reach out to families and identify who needed that support. Not all of our students had laptops, and really this crisis response effort was a bit scary at first.
But we rallied as a school and as a community to identify a lot of our students and figured out some really unique strategies in that crisis to do so… It was just kind of an effort that began on the school-end of the community to ensure that students had food and support, those physiological needs, so they can show up online. It was hard at first, but it brought us closer together. Our relationship with our families I believe is pretty strong, based on the trust that was built through the years and through this crisis.
Tina Tudor: All these things that we thought were so important went right out the window, and that’s a good thing. Honestly, I think this has almost been a correcting factor in some ways. It’s really gotten our head in the game for what students need in the moment. What I love about the FamilyWorks piece, is that the site is serving families with young children through high school. And what I really appreciate is that this a center for the Northeast region, where there is a huge amount of need. I don’t think we can stress that enough, the level of need that there is in our region. So we are excited about being a pilot. And we are a go-to school, like, we will get this thing done and get it done well on our end. And we see that as serving certainly our families in our region, but we’re also excited about being a pilot where maybe we can figure out some of the kinks and glitches so that it’s smoother in other schools.
What are new or increasing needs you are seeing with SPS families that are challenging to meet?
How are you hoping FamilyWorks can help to meet those needs?
William: Something I’m noticing in SPS, and everyone who’s doing remote learning, we do get a lot of traction and information from families and students who have access. And we make the assumption, based on the information we’re receiving from people and families that have access, that [group of students] gives us the information we need to provide the resources. And these are families with access.
This is really identifying the larger inequities in education in a way that we can workaround in a brick and mortar school. We can create programs and reach out to students who might not have as much as access physically. Without access virtually, they can’t fill out the forms and surveys. They don’t know when all these events are occurring remotely. Where FamilyWorks can help bridge that gap is that families that are right in the community know that this resource is available to lift some of these challenges that do exist for our families.
Tina: And, it’s in-person help. Tell you what, we have every resource sheet (there’s a fabulous one that’s been created by our Lake City providers). But the challenge with that is, for anyone who’s ever helped a family navigate those resources, navigation is essential. So you can give families sheets and sheets of information, but there’s almost a system savvy piece that we know about, because we are service providers. We kinda know how to cut to the chase and leave certain messages that will get a callback. But very frequently, families when either they’re doing this for the first time, at a new agency, or they’re in stress and other demands are going on, really that human touch, that personal navigation, is what I feel is going to ensure that the families are really going to get the services that are out there and that the providers want them to have. So we love that emphasis on navigation.
What are you most excited about for the partnership with FamilyWorks and having the resource center on campus?
William: Once we heard about this opportunity, we jumped on it and helped spearhead this effort. And really, the navigation, we can’t emphasize that enough, given so many inadvertent barriers that exist for our families. Navigation is the key.
Tina: It’s a good fit for us because we’re the Technology Resource Center for the northeast region. So already, we have families coming to another part of our site for help with their hotspots, and their computers. And these are families with elementary schoolers, middle schoolers, high schoolers. We have a site that is predisposed to being able to spread things out and deliver services… We have the Technology Resource Center two times a week, food distribution daily, we have our Teen Health Center open and serving families, both our own students and families coming in for vaccinations. We have our Nathan Hale distribution of materials, for textbooks and ORCA card distribution.
We were excited to make a space for FamilyWorks adjacent to the food distribution. Because what we know is, really, we can send out a thousand emails and press releases, but it’s word of mouth [that is the most important]. And also it gives the families arriving for food a chance to kind of look at it, scope it out. … But we were really able to establish for FamilyWorks, not only a site adjacent to the food distribution, but a site safe for them… their own separate space… Again, we’re kind of working out those details that we think might be helpful to suggest to other schools, if the pilot ends up being replicated.
In terms of cultural responsiveness, FamilyWorks brings multilingual staff at the resource center that can help families navigate numerous community providers and services. How will this help the richly diverse communities represented in SPS families?
William: We have families in North Seattle, Lake City neighborhood, that speak Amharic, Tigrinya, Spanish, different dialects of Amharic, different dialects of our Eastern African languages, and even languages I’m not even considering at the moment, but that [multilingual staff] is huge. Again, navigation. If there’s one thing here, Tina hit it, that’s navigation. That eliminates barriers and systemizes equity, and that’s what we need as a culturally responsive move from FamilyWorks.
Tina: The flyers are almost finished, and we were really pleased to see the FamilyWorks end of the flyers where the various service providers are listed in Somali and in Spanish. Often you’ll see “translation provided,” but those are really geared toward providers and not geared towards the people themselves who need the service. I just appreciate, out of respect for the families, that level of consideration for them.
FamilyWorks will be located on the south-end of the Nathan Hale High School campus, adjacent to the meal distribution site, which serves families from 13 different public school communities. After picking up their meals, families can meet directly with our knowledgeable and friendly Community Connectors, who can help with rental assistance applications, enrollment in public benefits, and work with families to navigate a vast network of community resources.