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How do students overcome barriers to learning like hunger, homelessness?

  • Scott LaMar


Homelessness, food insecurity, exposure to violence, and access to healthcare – all barriers to young people learning in school. Kids living in poverty is behind many of these challenges.

These all issues that schools deal with in providing an education to students.

Communities in Schools in Pennsylvania provides what are called “wraparound services to students and schools. The organization’s Vice President Lyndsey Sturkey was on The Spark Thursday who explained what wraparound services are,”They’re just a holistic approach to addressing barriers that students may be facing, particularly outside of school, that’s hindering or having a negative impact on their ability to come to school, either ready to learn or continue through through the grades.”

Communities In Schools offers services including mental health counseling, after-school programs, access to nutritious meals, and housing assistance. The organization says that by addressing students’ basic needs, they create a more stable foundation for learning, allowing them to focus on their education.

Sturkey pointed out that they use an online tool called the Future Ready Pay Index from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to identify schools that could use their services. Often, those are school districts where there is a larger percentage of students living in poverty or Title 1,”It will give you information on every school district, every school in the entire state. So you can look at standardized test scores over a couple of years. You can look at their socioeconomic breakdown, where kids are coming from, how many kids are in each school, for example. So that’s typically where we start — a lot of the schools that we work with our Title One. So we’ll kind of look at which districts may have a lot of Title One. We will also look of where they are geographically. Are they nearby another district where we already work?”


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