In recognition and support of National Homelessness Awareness month, the San Benito County Office of Education (SBCOE) gave away 200 Safeway gift cards and duffel bags to students who are identified under the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act, says a press release from the county office. The items were distributed to students attending Aromas San Juan School Unified District, Hollister School Elementary School District, San Benito High School District and Southside Elementary School District.
Students who are part of the Migrant Education Program at San Andreas Continuation School were also provided with gift cards.
The Safeway gift cards were donated by the Community Food Bank, which has been making a difference in the lives of at-promise youth through SBCOE outreach events, says the press release.
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act ensures that children who are considered homeless have the same educational rights and protection as all other school children, according to the county education office. The term “homeless children and youth” means “individuals who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.”
In San Benito County, there are an estimated 350 homeless children and youth who are identified by school districts, says the press release. The SBCOE provides support and resources to the 11 school districts in the county and the Alternative Education Programs to implement McKinney-Vento.
Technical assistance and training are available to the district homeless liaisons and other staff who are involved in working with homeless children and youth.
“For young people experiencing homelessness, access to basic needs and food during this time of the year has been challenging”, said Gwen Baquiran, SBCOE Director of Student Services and Foster/Homeless County Lead. “Our goal is to continue this outreach to support all our at-promise youth including migrant students, foster youth and students experiencing homelessness with the help of community partners and donors.”
San Benito students in foster care received school backpacks during SBCOE’s Back To School Resource Fair in August, plus duffel bags this holiday, the press release continues. The My Stuff Bags Foundation has donated 180 duffel bags to San Benito students who are in foster care, experiencing homelessness or are migrant. The bags offer necessities and comfort items to students in crisis or in transition.
County Superintendent of Schools Krystal Lomanto expressed her thanks to the Community Food Bank and My Stuff Bag Organization for the generosity and partnership.
“Partnerships like these bring the entire community together to support the education and wellbeing of the students and families in San Benito County, fulfilling some of the unmet needs of these students’ families. It takes the entire community to raise our students”, commented Lomanto.
Additionally, SBCOE rolled out Project Access this school year. This project is intended to give students in foster care or those experiencing homelessness access to additional services and supports to help remove educational barriers.
Services include access to academic support such as after school tutorial and summer enrichment activities, access to temporary hotel accommodations, access to health/safe care and training for school staff and parents to heighten the understanding of students’ challenges and identify and remove barriers to education, says the SBCOE press release.