Ridgewood High senior Thomas Rodriguez asked for donations of jeans to help clothe homeless students and received 147 pairs.
The jeans are being donated to the Pasco County School District’s Students In Transition program, which provides services to homeless students throughout the county.
Rodriguez collected the donation for his senior project. As part of his project, he interviewed the school district’s homeless liason, and Patch sat in. Here’s an edited transcript of Rodriguez and Erika Remsberg’s Q & A:
Rodriguez: How do you get enrolled in Students in Transition?
Remsberg: You get enrolled when you’re identified by a school staff personnel. There are faith-based organizations that will refer to us. The sheriff’s office will refer to us, the Department of Children and Families, the health departments will refer to us. Once we as a program become aware that there is a child or youth that is homeless, it is our responsibility to ensure that they are aware of what their rights are regarding enrollment and school access.
Ms. Donna Leonard, here at Ridgewood, is our homeless advocate. Every school in Pasco County, including charter schools, has someone who is trained to help other teachers identify homeless children who are trying to enroll and identifying current students that are homeless.
Then within the larger community, staff go out and look for children that are homeless but aren’t enrolled in school and help them to enroll in school.
Rodriguez: Do you know how many are enrolled here at Ridgewood?
Remsberg: I don't, but Donna Leonard can tell you. I should know, but I don't. We have about 85 different schools to cover right now. Any given day, with students being highly mobile, it changes.
Rodriguez: Which class has the highest rate?
Remsberg: There isn’t. It’s a variety. It’s spread out like any other family. Our homeless population isn’t different than any other family relative to the number of children or the ages of those children.
OK, the younger the children and the more children there are, the more vulnerable the family is because of how much more they have to pay, but it doesn’t really change with the grade.
In any given year though, we’ll have between 200 and 300 high school students living on their own.
Rodriguez: Besides clothes, do you help with anything else?
Remsberg: First and foremost, we want to make sure students have access to school. We help them with school enrollment. We help them with school attendance by providing them with clothes, hygiene kits, school supplies, backpacks. We network with school personnel and we link those children with school personnel who can help them with the costs of field trips, specialized programs, obtaining an ROTC uniform, participating in all school activities.
We help families connect with the resources they need, specifically housing, medical needs, food.
Rodriguez: That’s about it. Thank you.
Remsberg: I want to thank you for this. Because these jeans do mean a lot. I have had numerous children out of school because they didn’t have appropriate warm clothing. So this is very useful. This will make a difference.
For information about the Students in Transition program, contact Erika Remsberg, Homeless Liaison for Pasco County Schools, 813-794-4980.