Conversations From the Commons - Wickliffe Family Resource Center October 2023
1:37PM Nov 14, 2023
family resource center
The Campus of Wickliffe is a community of learners. We invite you to become part of this community by listening to our podcast Conversations From the Commons. When we think about what is the purpose of education, our responsibility is to help students along the path to becoming not to tell them want to become, we work to inspire students to learn, lead and serve. And through our conversations, we hope that you find inspiration and opportunities to check with us. I'm char Shryock, an educational leader partnering with the district to facilitate these monthly conversations. Today, I'm joined by superintendent Joe Speccia, Julie Ramos, the Director of Strategic Innovation and our special guests today, Leah Reese, the Service Coordinator for the Family Resource Center of Wickliffe. As we talked about Wickliffe schools on the path to becoming Leah, you play such an important role in that journey. Can you talk to us a little bit about who you are, and give us just a quick history of the family resource center?
So I've been in the role as service coordinator for a little over three years now. And really, I'm kind of overseeing the day to day operations of the Family Resource Center. It's in my title itself, I'm coordinating services for students, for families, for individuals in our community. I am out in the community working with other local nonprofits, governmental agencies, businesses to do community outreach and promote the various services and resources that we provide in the Family Resource Center. And in addition to that, in addition to promoting the resources that we have, in house at the Family Resource Center, the Family Resource Center also acts as a referral agency for a lot of other Lake County resources. So our kind of motto is that if you come to us, and we don't provide a service in house for you, you know, we're not going to turn you away and say, so sorry, good luck, we are going to hold your hand on that journey and connecting you to resources and ensure that you get pointed in the right direction in order to be able to take those next steps, whatever they may be.
Leah. So really, even though your job title says coordinator, you're really a connector, you're really looking at how can I take the resources we have access to and make connections to people who need those resources and help them out?
You know, Joe, that really is such a great connection to your whole campus of Wickliffe model. And you talk a lot about community. What do you mean by community in the context of the Family Resource Center?
Char, the first thing to think about when we think about community is certainly in the community of the school community, students, teachers, staff members, and so forth. But in the context of family resource center, we want to think in terms of the broader community. The majority of our services are services provided to students, but then it broadens out to the citizens of Wickliffe And it gets even broader as we impact any and everybody in Northeast Ohio, that's really important to us, that we're not insular, we want to ensure that anybody who walks in our doors or anybody who needs services has a place to come.
we've used the word services here now multiple times in the first few minutes of the podcast. Julie, your role in strategic innovation, what do you see that's innovative about this model or the kinds of services that are being offered to your students and to the broader community,
Looking at the services really is looking at the whole human and what that into and our goal with the family resource center in the Community Resource Center is really to get humans to be happy, healthy and whole. And those are the words that we use, and what happy, healthy and whole looks like for you or for me or Joe or Leah for that matter. Very different. So what's innovative about this is the services are responsive to the needs of the human. And so what we have discovered throughout our research and throughout time, there are certain bricks and barriers we know right out of the gate that we need to remove. And those we can and then as we learn and grow and we become as a district and learning, learning leading and serving as well as the Family Resource Center, with that complements one another so that we can we can get humans on the path of what their happiness and wholeness looks like. And so Joe often speaks of becoming and so as we become adn our organizations together in partnership become really the goal is to help as many humans as we really can. So we use the word services, but it's really helpers and in providing helpers that provide services and those services are whatever you may need in the innovation piece is our ability to be responsive and to pivot at any point to provide what is necessary.
you're talking about the needs of humans and what humans walked through the door, Leah, what humans walk through your door? What is the range of members of our community that you are serving?
So we, as Joe mentioned earlier, we truly do serve anyone and everyone who comes through our doors. So we service pregnant mothers through our Women, Infants and Children program that we have there. And their infants, their newborns, all the way through our, our Wickliffe seniors or senior citizens, and everything in between. So certainly, we are servicing a lot of school aged students being in that the family resource center of Wickliffe is connected to the brand new campus of Wickliffe. It's easy access right there, students and teachers are very well aware of our services, and they can make that connection pretty easily. But we truly serve the broad spectrum of, of,
of our population.
Talk to me a little bit about what a student can expect, you know, the did the students come on their own to you in the center? Are they referred by the counselors? Is it kind of both? What what kinds of services are you offering to them.
So there are
several different ways in which students and families can access our services. Our school guidance counselors really act as a liaison with the family resource center, we do work very closely with the four counselors in the schools. And so, you know, if a teacher or a parent comes, you know, they noticed a concern and a student, whether it may be behaviorally or mental health wise, or maybe there is a lack of, of access to basic needs, you know, you notice that a student comes into school consistently, with holes in their clothing, or, you know, so, so our teachers are very well equipped to be able to make a quick and easy referral to the Family Resource Center. So it's a seamless transition, those students get those services as quickly as possible. And then families are very much welcomed to contact the family resource center on their own. So certainly, they can go through school staff, they can go through a teacher and admin, a counselor, or they can reach out to us on their own, and schedule an appointment to come in chat with us and learn about all that we have to offer.
You know, Joe, when you've talked about your campus model, and the importance of communit, how did that whole idea of connecting this kind of open Community Resource Center focusing on wellness in the whole person, How did that fit into your vision when you started here, as a superintendent? How did you grow this center? Is this something that was here when you started, tell me a little bit more about that.
The Vision initially was actually Julie's. And what we've talked about early on in this process was the idea that for students to become successful academically, which is how people usually see a school, they also have to be successful and healthy, in the other pieces and parts of their life. And, and there's a lot of places that offer some services for students, but there's little value in offering a service to a student, if it's not followed through at the family, if it's not followed through as part of what happens in the community. So in our vision, we looked at this, this idea, this resource center idea is something that's going to serve any and everybody which in turn, is going to ultimately serve those students, and to help them reach their academic goals, if you will. So that was the vision. So we think in terms of a community is only as good as the person who's who's having the most difficulty. And if we can help that person, then we lift everybody else up. You know, it's funny to me, because when I think about the Family Resource Center, and people asked to describe it, I say, so we treat it, as Leah mentioned, pregnant mothers and infants through the WIC program. But we also do taxes for 85 year old people. And when people look at us, and they give us How do you do that? Well, we do that because we have great outside resources. We have great partners, but we also have a mission, and our mission is to serve the greater community. And that has been the mission that that started with Julie's vision, probably seven or eight years ago, and resulted in the enter opening and we started small, as you might guess, we our initial plan was to mental health services for students, which we do a great deal of, and then it broadened out to so how do we help kids in a pantry kind of way food, clothing, shelter, that type of thing. And we were able to move it forward from there, and it's just as grown. Leah mentioned the model. We've tried to make sure we take care of everybody. We have one role in the center in our rule in the center is. You never say no. If somebody walks in, and they have a need that we've never heard of, we as obligation and she does very well is to say yes, we can have that. And then if we can't do that right away, it's a matter of you know, she gets on the phone, and she calls one of us or she calls somebody says, Hey, can we do that? And then we always say yes. And we figure it out from there. And I think that's our strength.
Yeah, I want to add to that, because I think we all agree at this table, how much courage it takes for human to say, hey, I need help, whatever that help is, hey, I need food, I need clothing I need someone to talk to. So it's really important that the answer isn't no out of the gate, when you get that strength and that courage to come in and say, Hey, I need some help here. And so that's, I think, huge, really, the work that we do here the other piece, too, and I just wanted to highlight those partnerships, because Leah also has her tentacles in the lake health districts. So there's perspective and knowledge that she has, that she brings into our organization. So we're not operating in silos, and because she's out in the community, now, there are so many other social service agencies that she has her tentacles into. So if it's, it's, we're not providing the direct service, what we are doing is we are getting you we are connecting you to the service that you need, so that we can support your courageous behavior to say, hey, I need some help. And we're going say we've got the resources to do it. So I think that's one of the highlight that up how important it is for the human aspect or for the humans that walk through that door to get back to what how you said it Char when those humans walk through, whether it's the pregnant mom or the, you know, 88 year old doing a tax return? They're here, and we're helping, and that's something to be applauded.
I think it's so important to talk about breaking down those silos. I mean, all of us, I think, in the education space, recognize that, once you can see beyond those silos, the opportunities expand exponentially for student growth and success. And the fact that you took your original model, which was in a separate building that was not connected to the schools, and you built it into the new campus of Wickliffe building so that it's the same space, I think emphasizes the value and breaking down your silos. You talk about students who are coming to you when they have a need. One of the other missions, though, I know that's important to the district is helping students to find opportunities to serve and give back. So how do students serve and give back through the work that you're doing? Leah?
a great question. So we, at the Family Resource Center, we work very closely with the Learn lead and serve program. And that is a program for senior students at with glyph. It's a service learning program. So part of the time throughout the week, they're in the classroom, it's a service learning curriculum, they are learning about, you know, social justice, and philanthropy and what have you. And then several days in the week, they're out actually out in the community. Getting in those those boots on the ground volunteer hours with various organizations. And so we are so fortunate that the Family Resource Center is one of those organizations. And one of our most popular programs actually is a student led program by the name of WickCloset So that program started I want to say about four or so years ago now, it was a group of senior girls in the program at Wickliffe. And they decided that instead of going out into an agency in the community, they wanted to start something new on their campus started off very small scale collecting, you know, little hotel sized shampoos, quickly it grew to canned goods to clothing. And now we will we serve the full spectrum of those sort of basic needs. So we do food, clothing, toiletries, for the community at large. And we work very closely with those students in that aspect. Historically, we've also worked with the Lake County juvenile courts as well, to service students who are, you know, they made a mistake, they are in need of doing some community service hours to get them back on their path of continuing on and they've been able to come out sort through some clothing donations for us, help us get organized, and we send them on their way. So our partnerships reach a lot of different areas.
know, as somebody who values service myself, when I find opportunities to have authentic service, where I can see the impact that my work is having on my community and the people around me, I can see why the WickCloset program has been so impactful. And it's such a unique model. As we look at other districts who may be interested in doing something like that, students have a course component, do you then work closely with the teacher in that course? Are you like collaborating together around then the service piece that they're doing with you or is the course kind of a stand-alone piece from the work you're doing?
So I think that we that we certainly work in teams And,we partner and I communicate with those teachers on a, on a fairly regular basis. But I will say that the family resource center of Wickliffe is one of many volunteer placements that students have out in the community. So it's really interest based. So if we have students that are particularly passionate about animals, they will go and they will complete their volunteer hours at the Lake County Humane Society, we've sent students to Lake County Habitat for Humanity. So it just so happened that we have had a group of students that was really passionate about about their own home community and wanted to do something here on campus. And so that's really how that came about.
I think definitely think that interest based plan feeds so nicely into the path to becoming right like helping students identify what it is that they're passionate about. And then taking some action around that. Before we move off the WickCloset, I had an opportunity to come and visit the WickCloset in its original space, and now in its new space. And I think the thing that struck me was the lack of cost, that the wick closet is purely to meet a need. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
So something that that we're really proud of, in terms of our WickCloset program, and something that we really strive to do is that, you know, when an individual calls, and we set up an appointment to have them come in and shop and I use shopping, quotation marks, air quotes, because, again, as you mentioned, there is no cost associated with that, I really, you know, I truly block off, at minimum an hour of my time to spend with that client, because for a lot of the clients who come through our doors, this is the first shopping experience that they've had, where they've been able to have the dignity of choice, it's not that you go to a clothing bank, and you get handed a stack of five t shirts that are in your size, they are truly getting to pick out what it is that they they like and what they like to wear. And so with that we we block off an hour of time for them, because it's the first shopping experience that they've had, where they don't have that knot in their stomach of going up to the register, and how am I going to pay for this? Or if I do pay for this? Or if I do pay for new back to school clothes for my children? What else is going to take a toll will I be able to pay my electric bill this month. So our WickCloset program, it's all about choice, it's about dignity. And it's about allowing folks to to partake in that way.
You have heard a couple of really important things from the three of you. So far, I've heard the importance of connecting across the community. I've heard the importance of honoring people who come in who say that they need help and finding that way to help them. And, and hearing that voice. I've heard you talk about this dignity of choice and giving students the opportunity to follow their passions. So I do want to talk a little bit here about opportunity. What exactly do you see as we're moving forward as new opportunities? Or where would you like to push into some new opportunities as the Center continues to grow?
I can jump I can jump in.
Totally excited about sharing these opportunity ideas.
so we have a beautiful new space that we are working in. And that includes a large community space that we have availability to utilize into the evening time. So we're really able to accommodate working families that have all different sorts of schedules. So if you don't have the opportunity to visit us during our normal hours from eight to 4:30, during the day, if an individual reaches out and they say that the only time I can come in and shop is at 6pm. I have a flexible schedule and I'm able to accommodate those working families. Additionally, some things that we have on the horizon. Again, speaking to community partnerships, we as Joe mentioned, we have historically done tax clinics in in the springtime, we host an annual Back to School Bash that takes place in August, we just had our third annual Back to School Bash, this past this past August, that takes place in our community area there. And we're really looking to grow programs and opportunities. We've been in talks with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland about bringing a legal aid clinic there. We've talked about having a Veteran's Resource Fair. In our community space at the Family Resource Center. We've talked about having some evening programming and classes and working with kinship caregivers, you know, those folks in our community who thye are aunts and uncles or grandparents that are raising their family members, to really create a support network for those so I really think with our community space in the brand new family resource center of Wickliffe. The possibilities for collaboration for programming are truly endless.
you talk a lot about voices and hearing voices. Where do you See voices connecting to all this work between the school and your new community space? What voices are you hoping to hear?
All voices, I was like, Give me something more specific. Char because I say all voices and I did want to just piggyback on what Leah just said, of the sky's the limit. And as far as partnerships, and and when you talk about voices and where we want to go next one thing, too, and another big piece is just when you talk about the future, what does it look like with artificial intelligence? And what does it look like? And where is our future going? So having some experts come in of what that looks like? And, and, and the impact that that will have on our K 12 space, but also, just as the community because it's AI is here, it's been here for? Many, many years.
So and I think people need to remember that. But when you talk about voices and things of that nature, and what programs and where we are excited to go is really looking future, looking to the future, appreciating the present, but just being aware of what, what knowledge we need to have and really to lean in on our partners as well of what are we missing? And what are those partnerships that what are the voice? Who are the voices that we need to listen to, and that we need to bring in? And that's where we want our community to give us -we want to hear from them? And what is it that you need? And what is it that we can bring in because The sky is the limit. And there's you know, as we're talking this whole time, I was just thinking about Maslow's hierarchy of needs. And so as we're building, you know, we're into that piece of self actualization. And it's, we have the foundation. So let's continue to build and let's be open minded to all the voices because I think we can we can win when we're working together.
Yeah, that's such a great message to kind of wrap up on the the idea that the Family Resource Center is serving the community and a broader community. I mean, the majority of the community is the Wickliffe community. But expanding beyond that, and your willingness to pull in voices and resources and to break down those silos, as you're helping the whole child, I think just continues to emphasize the vision and the work of the campus of Wickliffe model that you have going. Leah, thank you so much for spending time with us today. As always, Joe and Julie, thank you for your ongoing support of the community of Wickliffe and the campus of Wickliffe. I'm looking forward to future conversations