PCHAS’ Education Program: Opening Doors for Group Home Residents

When children come into Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services’ (PCHAS) care, most have been traumatized from emotional or physical abuse at home. If they have also been moved from foster home to foster home, they might have switched schools a number of times. All of this puts them at a serious disadvantage when it comes to succeeding in school.

Recent studies of Texas school children found that youth in foster care are, on average, two to three years behind their peers in school. Only 40% of children in the foster care system graduate from high school and only 3% will graduate from college.

But with expert guidance, tutoring and moral support, PCHAS has proved that children in foster care can overcome these obstacles. PCHAS’ education team, Virginia Knight, Director of Education; Gayle Jordan, Advanced Education and Support Services Coordinator; and Shirley Anthony, Educational Coordinator, along with a large number of paid and volunteer tutors, offers consistent and loving support to the children. This team of well-trained and dedicated PCHAS staff members and tutors has formed an intentional community of learning dedicated to maximizing each child’s academic potential.

Each campus has a learning center where certified teachers (and volunteers) serve as tutors for kids three days a week. Our education team proactively (and passionately) advocates for each child with his/her teachers and school principals. They have worked hard to build relationships with local schools. They keep a close eye on each student’s progress, attend parent-teacher conferences and work with the schools to get the extra help some students need.

Shirley Anthony (left) and Virginia Knight (right)

Gayle Jordan

 

Every Monday, the education support team–Virginia, Gayle and Shirley– review each child’s progress with Group Home Supervisors. Together they decide how best to serve the children that week. For every student, Kindergarten through 12th grade, the team develops individual educational plans. “We look at each child’s strengths rather than their weaknesses, and we help them build on those strengths,” said Shirley. All this extra attention the children receive at PCHAS pays off. Last year, 39 of the 45 students passed all their classes.

For high school juniors and seniors, Gayle hosts workshops to help them understand complicated college admissions forms and other parts of the college application process. She also helps students with “non-academic” components of college like financial aid and housing. While students are in college she meets with them about their educational goals, academic progress and checks to make sure that they’re meeting financial needs goals–anything they need to help them stay on track.

Though the education team’s work can be stressful at times, seeing the potential in the students is what motivates them. They have seen what education can do to improve a child’s quality of life. “Education opens doors,” said Virginia. “It is so important to the kids’ independence and to their future.”

A high point for Gayle is, as she says, “watching a young person with low self-esteem and not much confidence graduate from high school — it’s beautiful! Seeing them walk across that stage at graduation makes all the hard work worthwhile.”

To learn more about Virginia visit http://texas.pchas.org/2016/05/24/a-passion-for-education/; to learn more about Gayle, http://texas.pchas.org/?s=gayle+jordan to learn more about Shirley visit: http://texas.pchas.org/2015/07/07/shirley-anthony-educational-coordinator/.

By Alyssa Rueter