Empower Yolo’s shelter staff and After School Safety and Enrichment for Teens (ASSETs) team are helping to prepare the kids and students for a successful school year. A new school year can be a fresh start for many of these children who yearn for a chance to rewrite their stories and embrace a hopeful new beginning.

Empower Yolo’s safe house advocates are preparing to welcome the new school year for all the children at the safe house.  “Planning and organizing have begun to help prepare the kids for a successful, new school year,” says Stephanie Campos, Child Advocate, Empower Yolo. Many of the shelter children are starting new schools; the new year truly brings new beginnings for them. “Currently, child advocates are making it a priority to enroll every new child who enters the safe house into school. Throughout this process, we are making sure every child is being assessed for physical, emotional, and medical needs, and any necessary accommodations to help them succeed in school,” says Campos. Empower Yolo also partners with the Foster and Homeless Youth Liaison through the Davis Joint Unified School District; they provide gas cards or bus passes for parents to transport kids to school as well as gift cards for new clothes to begin their school year with a fresh start.

Many children at the safe house who are escaping violence or who have experienced trauma have distinct needs compared to other children in the community. “Children at the safe house often experience different obstacles compared to their peers. Many come from a background of escaping violent situations often causing them to constantly be in a flight or fight mode. These kids remain on constant alert, as if treading on eggshells due to their past experiences,” says Campos.

Children at the safe house face many obstacles that other children in their community may not experience. “Challenges for safe house children include switching schools often causing a gap in their learning. It is important we provide children with school supplies that will last an entire school year because oftentimes these children will have multiple first days of school. A stressor that families at the safe house face is homelessness,” says Campos.

Lack of access to resources makes it difficult for children to keep up in school and not fall behind. “The children that come to the safe house have faced many obstacles such as food and housing insecurity. When they are with us at Empower Yolo we do our best to take away that insecurity and help families with their needs such as food and clothing, and connect them with resources like CalFresh. Providing basic necessities helps families and children stay on track to move forward in a positive way,” says Campos.

Empower Yolo advocates collaborate with local organizations and school districts to help mend bridges and ensure a successful transition by collecting school supplies, clothing, providing access to transportation, and creating a safety plan for families. “Peer counseling is a resource Empower Yolo offers at the safe house as well as therapy for children five and up to ensure the child’s mental health doesn’t hinder their well-being and ability to learn,” says Campos.

The safe house also partners with Sutter Health to give families an opportunity to seek medical care, which includes yearly physicals and vaccinations. “Sutter Health is a valuable resource providing care for families directly at the safe house and we are grateful for their partnership,” says Carolina Jimenez, Child Advocate, Empower Yolo.

Throughout the year Empower Yolo has also been partnering with ClipDart, a local organization providing free haircuts for all the children at the safe house. ClipDart has also been providing free haircuts to clients at the main office in Woodland. “Helping kids feel and look their best is a great way to boost their confidence. Kids are offered haircuts before school starts which is a wonderful service,” adds Jimenez.

To celebrate the school year, the safe house will provide a special “back to school breakfast” on the first day of school as well as the first day of school pictures. Child advocates also accompany kids and their mothers on the first day of school for moral support. “Oftentimes parents have questions that they don’t know how to ask or are afraid to ask; the advocate can provide support and attain information on their behalf,” says Jimenez.

Community support through financial and in-kind donations like food and clothing are very helpful and make a huge difference. The community can best support the children going back to school by donating backpacks with supplies, gift cards for clothing, transportation, snacks, and reusable water bottles. These types of donations are needed all year round.

Donations can be brought to the main office at 175 Walnut Street in Woodland, or the Resource Center at 441 D Street, Davis during office hours; Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; Tuesdays, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; Fridays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

We are grateful to our community partners and donors like the University Retirement Community that have given so generously to the children at the shelter by donating backpacks filled with school supplies. Community support contributes to providing these children with a fresh start and a chance to rebuild their lives. Together, we can create a lasting impact, helping them to overcome their past, and empowering them to write their own stories with a brighter future with hope and opportunities.

After School Safety and Enrichment for Teens (ASSETs):

Empower Yolo’s ASSETs program provides enriching programming for students at Woodland High School. The ASSETs team continues to provide services and resources to students to ensure that they achieve academic and lifelong success.

ASSETs staff is preparing for a back-to-school welcome week. “Our collaboration with our new club ASSETs advocates empowers our young participants, giving them a voice and the opportunity to provide input on activities that are both enjoyable and relevant to high school students,” says Daniela Talavera Rangel, Director of Youth Programs, Empower Yolo. The group will host different activities during lunchtime to recruit and welcome incoming freshmen and upperclassmen into the program. “We want to establish ourselves as a resource for socio-emotional and academic learning,” says Rangel.

ASSETs will be expanding its programming this year. “We will be continuing previous clubs as well as adding new clubs. We aim to make our program feel like a community within the school. We hope to provide academic support and personal support for freshmen that are starting their high school journey,” says Rangel. As freshmen, it can be a difficult transition going from a smaller school to a big school with over 1,000 students. “We want students to know that we are here for them by providing healthy meals after school, snacks, tutoring, and extracurricular activities like arts and crafts and so much more. For upperclassmen, we will be providing support for applying for scholarships, financial aid, and college,” says Rangel.

Student clubs will also be offered through ASSETs. “Our clubs this year will consist of crafts and creations, our new digital art club, Woodland Youth Council, indoor soccer, healthy meals, Game Room/Fun Zone Fridays, Our Strength (our socio-emotional and prevention education program), and our new yearbook club. We will also be hosting our monthly hikes each month and we hope to also take more college campus tours so that students can familiarize themselves with higher education institutions and their campuses,” adds Rangel.

ASSETs leaders appreciate student engagement. “We’re very grateful to be starting our ASSETs advocates club because we want to make sure that the clubs and activities we are providing are relevant and engaging for our students. We want to be able to connect with them and serve a lot of students,” says Rangel.

The community can help by spreading the word about the ASSETs program to their students. “We hope to make an impact this school year and provide a lot of resources for our students. We want the community to recognize our program as a safe space where their students can productively spend their time, make connections with others, and engage in more extracurricular activities,” says Rangel. Another way the community can help is by providing donation items for event raffles during welcome week and weekly raffles for Our Strength where ASSETs will be promoting awareness campaigns such as Anti-Bullying in October and Teen Dating Violence in February.

As these young students embark on a new school year, ASSETS helps empower them to shape their own paths, rise above adversity, and work towards a bright and fulfilling future.

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