Whether working to help make rent or caring for a family member with a disability, many Houston students juggle big responsibilities in addition to their school work. Making it to class on time and staying focused on studies can become difficult for some, but at Houston ISD’s Sharpstown High School, students don’t have to do it alone.
Tej Singh, LCSW, one of Communities In Schools of Houston’s two student support specialists at Sharpstown High, checks in regularly with students who may be struggling. The CIS project manager listens to students share their experiences and concerns in managing all of their responsibilities, assesses their needs, and goes into solution mode. “If you keep focusing on the problem, it feels daunting,” Singh explained. “Talking about the issue is a good start, then we have to figure out what can be changed. And change is hard and can take time.”
In addition to connecting students with CIS community partners who can provide resources and services to meet basic needs, Singh works with students and their families on a game plan for the high schoolers to get back on track and focused on their futures. These Sharpstown students are then mentored regularly to help them stay on their path to graduation in a nurturing and safe environment.
One student who helped care for a sibling with a disability would miss class to go to doctors’ visits when his mother could not afford to take off from work, and it was becoming increasingly difficult for the student to keep up at school. Singh helped empower the student to open up to teachers and explain the issue. His teachers were then able to work with the student to personalize his educational experience, making sure he was able to make up the work and didn’t fall through the cracks.
From one-on-one sessions with CIS student support specialists to teacher consultations and peer support groups where students discuss their stress, depression and other shared struggles, Sharpstown students are given the tools and support to help them successfully juggle whatever life may throw their way.