A Pandemic Makes it Even More Difficult to Get Resources to the Students Who Most Need Them — Enter Communities In Schools of Northeastern Nevada
Author: Sarah Goicoechea, Executive Director, Communities in Schools of Northeastern Nevada
Those of us who live in Nevada’s rural communities are used to the idea of “social distancing” because it’s literally how we live, with great spaces in between us. We are also used to living with limited access to many of the luxuries our urban- and suburban-dwelling neighbors often take for granted, like public transportation, and a myriad of social services.
The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has forced unprecedented challenges upon every inch of the state, including its rural communities. Almost overnight, educators had to figure out how to shift from in-person to virtual instruction, while also figuring out how to meet the basic needs of many of their students, including access to adequate nutrition since many students eat up to two meals a day at school.
While Nevada’s schools are closed to help contain the spread of COVID-19, Communities In Schools of Nevada, the fifth-largest state office of the nation’s leading dropout prevention organization, is still working tirelessly to connect with and support 70,000-plus students at 72 high poverty schools across Nevada, including nine schools in rural Nevada.
This is no easy task. The very premise of our agency’s model relies on students being in schools. Our model places full-time site coordinators in schools to build trusted relationships with students most at-risk, identify their needs and bring community resources into the school to help address those needs so students can better focus on learning.
But the pandemic has flipped that script. While schools are closed, Communities In Schools of Northeastern Nevada is leading beyond the building to ensure continuity of care for those we serve. Our Site Coordinators continue to work in the community to deliver our WeekEND Food bag program and provide emergent food boxes, school supplies and hygiene kits to our families, all while continuing to maintain as much remote contact as possible with students and their families by phone, text and email. In addition to working to ensure students have access to food on a daily basis, we are also doing our best to ensure they have access to mental health counseling via tele-health so their social-emotional needs are being met.
We know this historically unprecedented time creates extraordinary challenges for everyone, especially for students and their families who may have been living on the edge of poverty even before the pandemic began. That’s why we remain committed to finding creative and innovative ways to provide ongoing support and services to our students. We also want to acknowledge the support of our schools’ principals, teachers, guidance counselors, school social workers, school resource officers, community members, local businesses and our parents and students who are also on our team. We are, after all, a big family that is even more united in crisis. It takes a village.
As our communities grapple with the uncertainties that lie ahead, we continue to be guided by our mission that every child has the potential to succeed when they are given the opportunities and support they need to rise to the occasion. Enter Communities In Schools of Northeastern Nevada where we surround students with a community of support so they can stay in school — and achieve in life.