LISC DC provided grant funding to the Washington School for Girls (WSG) to support its family engagement program in DC’s Wards 7 and 8.
Grant funding will help cover the salary of the Family Relations Coordinator, who works directly with WSG families to address barriers to learning and meet the needs of students.
Below is an op-ed from DeAnna McCall, the WSG’s Family Relations Coordinator:
I am the Family Relations Coordinator for the Washington School for Girls (WSG). The mission of WSG is to close the academic achievement gap by broadening the opportunities for girls from economically disadvantaged communities. By providing an excellent academic program and supportive environment, we are able to engage families and the community in every aspect of the students’ growth.
WSG strives to maintain high academic and behavioral expectations for our students; however, we do not expect them to reach these standards alone. We provide a wide range of supports to facilitate this process.
From something as simple as connecting families to resources such as in-home internet to providing individual or small group support to help parents understand the school’s expectations and how best to support their children, we make sure our families have the tools to succeed. We recognize that each student and family is unique and we know that establishing a strong, collaborative relationship is critical to effectively meet each student and family’s needs.
As the Family Relations Coordinator, I serve as a liaison between the parents, students, teachers, and administration to communicate concerns associated with the child and establish a realistic plan to support her success. Adjusting to our program can be challenging for some parents, because previous school environments may have had more relaxed expectations or an adversarial relationship with parents.
Sometimes families, particularly those new to our school, express frustrations in colorful ways that can often discourage re-engagement on all parts. Choosing to re-engage with an understanding and empathetic ear displays our motto at WSG – “In the Spirit of Courageous Women.” Being courageous is a quality that enables a person to face difficulty and pain despite fear of consequences.
When faced with disagreement, I challenge families to recall why they decided to enroll their child at WSG; for it is easy to forget the “why” when you’re experiencing the pain of a new terrain. It is through this process that I’m able to learn the parent’s perspective and previous experiences in past environments.
Taking this approach informs how I communicate and interact with them, for it reflects an understanding of their experiences and moreover cultivates a trusting relationship that honors the mutual goal of providing an excellent education for their daughter.
I find that the girls’ parents want their children to succeed, but are often dealing with their own barriers to success. For instance, a parent who may want to enter an adult education program could experience basic barriers such as lack of transportation and childcare or emotional ones such as self-doubt and stress that prohibit them from stepping outside his or her comfort zone to access the resources that they so rightly deserve.
Once I am able to help connect parents to the resources through our partnerships with nonprofits in the community, I see their self-confidence grow and their involvement in their children’s academic pursuits increase. I am very grateful to be working at the Washington School for Girls. WSG understands that it really does take a village to not only raise a child, but also to educate a child. When you work with a student, you are working with her family.
I am fortunate to work at a school that understands the power of relationships and how they have fostered this process by partnering with not only our families but also with organizations that also do great work in the Ward 8 Community. As such, I would be remiss to not acknowledge my previous employment.
Prior to joining the WSG staff, I worked at Sasha Bruce Youthworks (SBY) as a Social Worker at Kindred Connections, a program that was in partnership with the Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative (FSFSC) that provided short term case management services, in-home counseling, and parenting skills development to families in Ward 8. I did this for 3 years before transitioning into a Program Manager position at SBY’s Olaiya’s Cradle.
It was in this capacity that I was responsible for managing the day to day operations of the program that provided temporary housing for teen mothers and babies. All of these experiences taught me first-hand about the barriers of service and how it impacts the individual and family from varying perspectives. I believe that these experiences have more than prepared me for my work with families and students at WSG, for it has shaped, developed and enhanced my understanding of working with this community.
I thank LISC DC for supporting the Washington School for Girls, which will enable us to expand our family engagement program to better address the immediate needs of our students and families. I recently learned that LISC DC also provides grant funding to our partner organizations, including Sasha Bruce Youthworks and FSFSC.
This is what it means to elevate equity – provide support at the community level by helping people access resources that will create more opportunities for success. Thank you LISC DC for all that you do. Washington School for Girls looks forward to our continued partnership.
*The Washington School for Girls (WSG) is a tuition-free, independent Catholic School serving 140 young women in grades 3-8. WSG primarily serves young women from Wards 7 and 8, including approximately 20 students living within the boundaries of LISC DC’s Elevating Equity Initiative. The school has two campuses: one at the Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Center (THEARC) in Congress Heights for grades 6-8, and another at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in the Fort Stanton/Hillsdale area for grades 3-5.
Photo of DeAnna McCall, Family Relations Coordinator for the Washington School for Girls
Photo Credit: Jeff Salmore