By Ardan Bramall, Toli Gonodanov-Meydbray, Sean Quigley and Cayden Tsai
Summit Denali Education Specialist Dr. James Rozman saw a homeless elementary-school student’s attendance rise after the student developed bonds with her teachers. He saw this as evidence of the idea that creating connections with students could help treat student poverty.
According to a study jointly conducted by UC Berkeley and Tipping Point, 50% of Bay Area residents, including families, cannot afford to pay their bills at least once throughout any given year. Student poverty is considered a large contributor to low academic achievement, as highlighted by a paper written by Kendra McKenzie in the Journal of Graduate Studies in Education.
One of the reasons student poverty leads to less academic achievement is because impoverished families may require help from their children outside of school, thus limiting their ability to study and learn. California has very high levels of poverty, so many impoverished students will continue to not get a proper education.
Bay Area schools are combating student poverty by providing extra aid and mental health support to impoverished students amidst the continuing Covid-19 pandemic.
Many schools in the Bay Area help impoverished students by giving them extra support depending on their needs. For instance, when asked what training faculty at her schools were given to deal with impoverished students, Alameda Community Learning Center and Nea Community Learning Center Executive Director Analissa Moore said, “So we train our staff in the reality that we provide supplies – their field trips are free, lunch is free, and school supplies need to be free – and it goes all the way to providing technology hotspots.”
A specific example of a way a certain Bay Area school, Summit Denali, provides extra aid to impoverished students is by giving students more lenient deadlines. Summit Denali AP English Literature teacher Matthew Sigler said, “As much as it frustrates me, the lack of deadlines can be very valuable for students who are doing things like working outside of school and have to help provide for their family, or it allows them to have more leeway for getting things done.”
It should be noted, however, every method in treating student poverty is different for each school as well as each student. As Sigler stated, “It’s hard to pinpoint one thing because every student faces different problems; what I provide for one student may not be the necessary supports for another.”
Another service Bay Area schools use to fight student poverty is by providing counseling and other mental health services to impoverished students. “We have counseling groups,” Moore said. “We have social-emotional groups, like how do I deal with death, how do I deal with friendships, how do I deal with stress, all the way to individual counseling and home visits.”
Bay Area schools have also tried to create non-hostile learning environments to help impoverished students thrive. Dr. Rozman said, “I think teachers showing that they want to build a relationship with their students shows a caring educational atmosphere.”
At the end of the day, many education professionals agree making connections is necessary to help impoverished students. In response to being asked what the most effective strategy was to treat student poverty, Moore concurred, “You have to focus on building relationships and genuine connection because you have to provide an environment where kids trust and are vulnerable, otherwise they’re not going to say when they need support.”
Featured Image at the top of the page:
Summit Denali High School campus re-opens. PHOTO CREDIT: Sophia Garcia