Auckland schools have bold and simple ideas to help students struggling families: collect money for them

This article originally appeared Auckland side Published in partnership with Solution Journalism Exchange

ADue to the blockade of Auckland and the Bay Area last year, three mothers, na Carpio, lost their job at the restaurant and either closed or significantly reduced business hours. Carpio was the main source of income for households at the time, including an 18-year-old son, a 10-year-old daughter, and a newborn granddaughter. Carpio’s eldest daughter, who would normally have been able to help financially, could not work because she had just given birth.

Not knowing where to go, Carpio got help from a place she didn’t expect: her daughter’s elementary school, the Bridges Academy in Melrose. She received $ 500 from school last April and another $ 250 in June to cover her rent and groceries.

“It’s like falling from heaven,” said Carpio, who had been unemployed for five months. “It happened at a very important time when I wasn’t working, so it was very helpful.”

Over the past year, some schools in Auckland have embarked on a role that was rarely seen before the pandemic. Financing and providing cash payments to struggling families. What began as an emergency relief, primarily for newcomers and immigrant families, who were not eligible for federal incentives, has been going on for over a year. The school supports payments such as rent, housing deposits and telephone bills for Auckland families who are still recovering from the economic and health consequences of COVID-19.

“Students can’t learn when their families are in need,” said Anita Iverson Comero, principal of the Bridges Academy in Melrose, East Auckland. “It’s hard for us to turn our backs when our family is crying on the phone.”

When the school building was closed a year ago, teachers and school staff realized that it would affect not only the education of their students, but also began conducting health examinations. I called the student’s house and asked what the family needed. Did you have food at home? ?? Was their housing stable? Did you lose any income? How about internet access? How were you guys?

Alyssa Baldokki, who teaches the humanities to freshmen (immigrants under three years) at Elmhurst United Middle School, often connects with students and their families via Instagram due to lack of telephone service. Bardokki and fellow teacher Marisa Mills, Started fund-raising activities Collecting donations to support immigrant students and their families.

Around the same time, Iverson-Comero decided to donate a stimulating check to one of his father’s deceased students. She suggested to some of her colleagues that they would do the same with their inspiring funding, and soon it became a bigger campaign when Iverson-Comero’s husband created the website,, To receive donations from the general public.

to date, More than a dozen schools Oakland, including the Elmhurst and Bridges Academy, raised over $ 250,000 during the pandemic and distributed it to families.

By the end of the school year, Elmhurst Principal Kilian Betlach expects his school alone to donate $ 25,000 to at least 50 families with a $ 400 grant. He expects to make another $ 400 payment in May.

The pandemic goes beyond education and focuses on how important schools are to students and their communities, and schools provide meals, a safe place for young people during the day, and early morning and late afternoon childcare. I will. Some schools in Auckland have a campus health clinic, regular visits to dental vans, food pantry, and clothing closets.

“If we want to serve our children, we need to embrace all the needs of our children and their families,” Betrach said. “It shouldn’t be perceived as extra, but it serves the community.”

Iverson-Comelo estimates that Bridges Academy has distributed $ 65,000 to families this year. The school keeps spreadsheets for families who need money, and when donations come in, they offer checks of varying amounts depending on the family’s expenses and income. Some families receive $ 500 a month for several months to help pay their bills, while others may need to pay a one-time $ 1,500 to pay their security deposit. ..

Million O’Bandrojas, a third-year student attending the Bridges Academy, was cleaning the house with a friend before everything was closed. At the same time, her husband, a roofer, reduced his time a couple of days a week, Rojas said.

The family receives money from the school in April, June, December and February last year, and receives $ 500 a month from March to May this year.

“I was able to pay my bill, rent, phone bill, and buy diapers for my little kids,” said Rojas, who also has two-year-old twins. ..

Iverson-Comelo said it makes sense for schools with a large number of new entrants to play this role. Some modern immigrants may not be eligible for federal incentive payments, and language barriers can make access to services more difficult. “People still need literacy to navigate the form,” she said, even though the government aid form is available in Spanish or other languages.

Bridges Academy serves approximately 430 students, 80% of whom are learning English. According to Iverson-Comelo, about 20% of students are freshmen, one of the highest percentages at OUSD Elementary School.

Baldocchi says teachers and other school workers are often the first point of contact with the family’s government and are responsible for helping them.

“The ones who are still struggling the most are those who have been hit hard by COVID,” Baldokki said. “These families tend to be absent from work for some time, and many of their jobs do not allow paid sick leave, etc.”

Bridges Academy is affiliated with the Oakland Public Education Fund and Community Check Cashing, a non-profit organization of Fruitvale. The funds raised by the Bridges Academy will go to the Auckland Public Education Fund. The fund writes full checks to the Community Check Cashing and distributes individual checks to families from the list provided by the school. Parents like Carpio can receive funding by visiting Community Check Cashing and presenting their ID.

Oakland Unified School reopened for face-to-face learning on March 30, but Elmhurst United’s Principal Bethrach will continue as long as the school community can raise funds and receive support from the Oakland Public Education Fund. He said he would support. Family with cash. He pointed out that many families were struggling before March last year, and the pandemic exacerbated it.

“Most of our community is no longer needed, but it is that some of the economic opportunities lost by the pandemic have magically returned, or that people can access them again. It doesn’t mean to be, “he said. “These needs will last long, and they existed before COVID.”

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