By: Katie Sobiech
Project RISE (PR) not only makes the transition for homeless children into the school systems easier, but helps their parents as well. PR provides many resources for parents and their children, including the “Parent Pack”, which is filled with valuable information including a Street Card, homeless children’s rights, educational information, local resources and plenty of other information.
The Street Card contains the contact information of various community resources including anything from meal sites, to homeless shelters, to financial and housing counseling.“We actually started the Street Card in the Akron area,” Debra Manteghi, District Homeless Education Liaison and Program Manager, said. “We also send out the Parent Pack to all of the parents including what the parent’s rights are, a resource directory, and relevant academic information.”
What They Stand For
The “RISE” in Project RISE stands for “Realizing Individual Strength through Education”. PR empowers children through their education so they can rise to higher levels in life, with the ultimate goal of breaking generational cycles of poverty. It provides them with a chance to rise above their circumstances.
Many homeless parents are unaware of the rights of their children and the opportunities available to them through federal funded programs. PR educates them of these rights and offers programs to provide them with the knowledge and resources that they need to become just as successful as non-homeless children, and to realize their full potential.
“Right now we’re focusing on early childhood education and trying to provide intervention and support as ACCESS and the Battered Women’s Shelter. It’s an extension of our Parent Rising Program,” Manteghi said.
What they have found from research is that younger homeless children are not as likely to be prepared for kindergarten as the non-homeless children. Many times school is a much greater struggle.
“The educational standards are greater than they once were for kindergartners, so it’s even more important that we help our parents prepare their children and help them get ready for school so that their child can have a good start in their school experience,” Manteghi said.
Combining Local Efforts
PR works with others in the community to combine their efforts on behalf of homeless children. Along with ACCESS and the Battered Women’s Shelter they work with the Harvest Home, Interfaith Hospitality Network, H.M. Life Opportunity Services, Salvation Army, Safe Landings, and the Catholic Worker Movement.
Recently the University Association of Education for Young Child donated 85 pairs of shoes that PR delivered to local homeless shelters before Christmas. This is just one example of the many organizations that have pulled together to lend a hand to PR.
“We work with them (the University Association of Education for Young Child) and they do a lot of projects for us, providing things like books, hats, scarves, underwear and socks,” Manteghi said.
“We also have a special program with Trinity United Church of Christ which was new this year,” Manteghi continued, “They started a clothing closet for our students at shelters where they can get uniforms, socks, underwear, shoes, book bags, school supplies and bath and body products. We want our kids to go to school with uniforms and whatever they need so that they don’t feel any different from anybody else there.”
Lori Howard, intern at Project PR, and Family Development Major, tutors kids at both the Catholic Worker Movement and ACCESS“
I don’t know Spanish but they do; they’re bilingual,” Howard said, “They’ve actually been teaching me different words in Spanish so it’s been educating on both ends. It’s very nice.”
Shannon Collins, Family and Child Development Specialist, is new on board at PR and enjoys her experience so far.
“I’ve been watching the tutoring and it’s a wonderful program,” Collins said, “It’s amazing that despite what they’re going through, they have been a wonderful group of kids. I’ve been impressed and amazed by that. They’re all happy.”
Collins says the kids are also very affectionate towards the staff.
“We were tutoring one day and a little boy was cuddled up on his tutors lap,” Collins recalled.
“I would say that we’ve helped a lot of families. We’ve made a difference for a lot of families,” Manteghi said.
For more information on Project Rise please call 330.761.2969