Homeless Students and Available Resources
There are forty two homeless students in Bozeman High School, one hundred and nine in the District. Anna Edwards, the Family-School Services Coordinator for the Bozeman School District works on several different programs including the Mckinney-Vento Homeless Education Program and Families in Transition. Anna makes sure homeless students qualify for these programs, makes sure their educational rights are met, refers families to community programs, and makes sure students’ basic needs are met so that they can be successful in their education. The main purpose of the programs is that, “Each child of a homeless individual and each homeless youth has equal access to the same free, appropriate public education,” says Anna Edwards.
A homeless student is defined by their living situation and must be a shelter resident, in shared housing, a motel/hotel, campground or tent, car or abandoned building. Since many people don’t know what a homeless student is, there are stereotypes about homeless students and/or their families. Anna says,“Children and families that are homeless are often invisible. They are not ‘flying signs’ and most often are not living on the street but rather with friends, relatives, in a shelter, or a motel...” In fact, some students are homeless for 2-3 years while others are homeless for only a few days.
Through these programs, Anna provides free lunch, access to education, and other educational needs. Her main goal is “To provide equal access to education for all students (Edwards).” Since homeless students don’t have a set home, there are rights that they have through their education. Some of their educational rights are to “Receive a free, appropriate public education [...] enroll or remain in school without a permanent address, qualify for free and reduced lunch, receive transportation to and from school [...] (Edwards).”
Anna helps homeless students by providing a lifeline for them, one less thing they have to worry about. She has such a passion for her job, stating, “I love working with students and their families– they are so resilient and impress me everyday. I also enjoy working with teachers, staff, and the community – it really takes everyone working together to make a difference.” Sometimes she faces tough days with her job, but she thinks of graduation every year, and how she gets to see students she helped graduate high school and overcome struggles that they faced. One story of a homeless student resonated with her. Anna said, “I do remember helping a student move into a shelter and their car was full of books. I thought at the time, okay they are going to make it. Sure enough, she is now attending college.”
There are many ways the public can help Anna and homeless students. With donating to the programs, people can also volunteer or donate to local programs like HAVEN, Family Promise, and HRDC. For more information, you can check out the website, under the “McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act” on bsd7.org on how to help. Also, you can contact Anna Edwards at (406)522-6118 or her email, firstname.lastname@example.org
Madison Collins is a sophomore at Bozeman High School, this piece was originally published in Hawk Talk and in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.