Photo by Heather Middleton
By Jeylin White
For many students, simply maneuvering their way through the twists and turns of everyday life and the demands of school, to reach graduation, is challenging enough.
But there are others, who must also face -- and overcome -- obstacles, such as homelessness and domestic upheavals, that make their journey even more difficult.
Fortunately, for such students, Clayton County Public Schools is able to offer help, encouragement, guidance and resources. The school district's Homeless Education Department showcased the results of its work recently, during what it called a "Senior Portfolio Seminar," in Morrow.
During the event, 40 graduating seniors, who went through its "Children in Transition Program," were recognized for achieving their goal of graduating from high school, while overcoming serious economic hardships and other obstacles.
"The students received many gifts, during the ceremony, including a book called, 'Oh, the Places You'll Go!' by Dr. Seuss," said Clayton County Schools Communications Assistant Jacqueline Evans.
The "Children's in Transition Program" is offered through the homeless education department, which provides services to a growing number of homeless and highly mobile children and youths. The program helps eligible seniors with educational resources and financial assistance, which is based on a student's independent needs and the department's collaboration with other service agencies.
"This program is to help stabilize students during their senior year, to ensure they make it to graduation," Evans said. "The students get to know the staff. It's like a community of support for the students."
Sonia Davis, coordinator of Homeless Education, said, "Students just need a little help or encouragement as they adjust to unexpected changes in their senior year."
During the celebration, the 40 honorees received advice on attending college from several guest speakers, including: Joseph Echols, from Clayton State University's Office of Admissions; Lavar Mathews, a Clayton State student representative; Kanesha Paris, a Morrow High School graduate from 2010; and Clayton County School Superintendent Edmond Heatley, who made a surprise visit, to impart a few words of encouragement to the students.
In addition to special gifts, each honored graduate also received a portfolio kit, that included photos from a cap-and-gown photo session, with three, four-by-six, and five-by-seven graduation shots.
"We are able to support students, because of the wonderful support of our administrators, local business community, and other service organizations," said Sonia Davis, homeless education coordinator. She added: "Many students understand what it means to have support of a community."
Each summer, the Homeless Education Department holds a back-to-school resource fair for eligible students, said Evans. The fair assists students with valuable information, school resources and access to community organizations, in preparation for the upcoming school year.
The resource fair is also a way for the department to determine which seniors will be eligible for the "Children in Transition Program," Davis said.