Agency partners with school district to offer services

Vashon Youth Family Services launches new programs, highlights its childcare program, Vashon Kids.

In response to students’ educational and emotional needs surrounding online school, Vashon Youth & Family Services has recently launched new programs in partnership with Vashon Island School District, as well as highlighted the work of its childcare program, Vashon Kids.

Vashon Kids (VK) provides education and enrichment activities for a diverse enrollment that represents the range of social, economic and racial diversity of the island, said Jeni Johnson, executive director of VYFS.

VK cares for children in pre-kindergarten through 7th grade in a bi-lingual environment, including support for those students who are most challenged by remote learning and language barriers. Vashon Kids is the only licensed, all-day childcare program currently available on Vashon. Currently, more than 40% of all Vashon Kids receive scholarships.

What’s more, VISD has provided computers and WiFi for twice-daily remote learning periods, overseen by VK staff, VISD teachers and volunteers who help with activities and tutoring. VK staff stays in close contact with VISD teachers and administrators.

“Parents are expressing incredible relief at having a safe, supportive haven, with a caring staff they can trust to care for and academically support their children,” Johnson said.

For students at McMurray and Vashon High, VYFS has also recently launched a new Family Resource and Academic Support Center, with a primary focus on low-income families and Vashon’s Latino community.

“Many island families are facing significant obstacles to meet the requirements of remote learning,” said Johnson. “Low-income families, in particular, are struggling to hold jobs outside the home when they are also needed to support their students attending school at home, and our Latino students are struggling with both language and technology barriers to successful remote learning.”

The bi-lingual services offered at the center are focused not only on overcoming remote learning and technology barriers but also on providing a case management approach that makes referrals to other VYFS support services as well as other community organizations that collaborate with VYFS, Johnson said.

The center goes into service on Oct. 8 in the VHS gymnasium, from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursdays and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays, and will focus on academic support and community resource support for families. In addition to the hours of in-person service, VYFS will staff a Latino Support Services Helpline (206-348-4488) available to VISD students and families from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Fridays.

Services of the center will include tutoring, language and tech support provided in English and Spanish. Support needed to navigate school requirements, secure additional academic resources and referrals to other services will also be provided. In addition to all this, other supports will include translation and interpreting support for learning materials, assignments and other academic and administrative requirements, Johnson said.

Through these efforts, VYFS also plans to identify needs, connect families to community resources and provide referrals to take care of complex needs including housing, transportation, medical, legal, food and mental health needs.

All these programs will be overseen by two members of the VYFS Latino Services team, Emilio Gonzalez and Sarah Sullivan.

Gonzalez is an experienced behavioral health professional who holds a Master’s degree in social work and has experience working with at-risk youth. Sullivan is a trained, bi-lingual counselor.

Islanders who are interested in volunteering at The Center can contact jjohnson@vyfs.org. To contact the Support Center, email Sarah Sullivan at ssullivan@vyfs.org.

The work at VYFS is a partnership with Vashon Island School District, with an aim to provide equity supports requested by low-income islanders and members of Vashon’s Latino community.

At a school board meeting last week, another grassroots organization representing Vashon’s Latino community, Comunidad Latina de Vashon, sent a public comment outlining their disappointment that they had not been consulted by VISD in the formation of a tutoring program and the hiring of additional personnel to liaison with the Latino community. They had specifically asked for that involvement in a detailed letter sent to Superintendent Slade McSheehy on Sept. 10.

McSheehy shared three brief emails he had sent to the group on Sept. 10 and 14, asking to meet or talk on the phone to follow-up on their letter, and said CLV had not responded.

In an additional statement to The Beachcomber, CLV pointed out their own expertise and accomplishments in instituting supports for Latino students, including hiring partners including Puentes, a mental health organization, and GOKiC (Geeking Out Kids of Color).

“CLV and our partners; GOKIC and Puentes and youth leaders have been working diligently with our Latino families to make sure that technology barriers and challenges are addressed and have provided tutoring support,” the statement said.

“We have been in contact with over 45 families and have spent over 400 hours with families who have had varied needs,” the statement additionally said. “We have helped ease family stress by walking with families in the many-steps process to access to low-income internet programs, individual and group tech support and classes, connected families to VISD staff, and continue to support families as families adjust to the new platform, SeeSaw. We do this through countless follow-ups and collaborative problem-solving. Families continue to ask us to translate homework and school messages. Frequent check-in with families lets us know where families stand and what additional support they may need moving forward.”

Johnson, in a phone interview, said she has reached out to CLV and is very eager to further involve the group in developing the new VYFS programs.

“We are totally open to CLV’s feedback, thoughts and even restructuring the work we’re doing with the guidance of the group,” Johnson said. “We want to shape this work so it supports a strong collaboration.”


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