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    Building a Village to Support Students and Their Families
    Posted on 11/16/2018
    Angel Graves and Sharon Peterson smile for a photo

    Building a Village to Support Students and Their Families

    For Angel Graves and Sharon Peterson, the work rarely ends. They are a dynamic pair of women that work endless hours to fiercely advocate and serve Seattle Public Schools students and families. Once they forge a bond, that relationship has taken root — Graves and Peterson rarely forget a face and a name.

    “I do what I do because it’s for the kids and the families we serve. That’s what we were called to do,” says Graves, a regional support specialist with the district’s McKinney-Vento program. The McKinney-Vento program supports student and families experiencing homelessness.

    Peterson adds that she still receives calls from parents and students that have transitioned out of her case load. “They need help navigating the system, and they’ll call me; and I’ll tell them, ‘hey, I know who you need to talk to. I’ll connect you to them.’”

    Peterson and Graves collaborate frequently to serve the students and families that come their way. “Being able to partner with Sharon makes my work more meaningful and efficient; bouncing ideas off one another and doing constant checks and balances to ensure we capture the entire family dynamic is priceless,” mentions Graves. Peterson is a district truancy representative at Seattle Public Schools and has been serving the district community for the more than 10 years. Radiating from Peterson is a calm energy coupled with enormous strength and devotion for the families she serves.

    One of the students she and Graves supported was Diontrae. Both women recall years of working with Diontrae, which goes to show that once Graves and Peterson begin supporting a family, the help and attention rarely wanes — but increases with time.

    When they first met Diontrae, he was having angry outbursts at home and at school. His mother, Keisha reached out to Graves and Peterson for resources to support her son.

    “When mom first came to us, Diontrae was struggling. He was having angry outbursts. Mom told us he used to love going to school and participating. He once was a stellar student,” says Graves. They soon discovered that several rough life transitions in Diontrae’s life was the source of his frustration.

    “He had to live with grandma for some time,” explains Graves as she describes how Diontrae and Keisha experienced a brief period of separation. The bond between mother and son was close, and the separation was rough on both.

    To help both with the transition, Graves and Peterson identified the resources the family needed immediately and in the long term. Housing was secured, and Diontrae was matched with a mentor in the community through the 4C Coalition, an organization that matches youth with adult mentors.

    An entire village was built around Diontrae to set him up for success. Keisha is grateful to Graves, Peterson, and Coach Nick (Diontrae’s mentor at 4C Coalition) for being there for her and her son. “Ms. Angel, she never dropped the ball on me. Ms. Sharon, she opened the doors for me when things were very hard; and Coach Nick, he’s always there for my son.”

    Diontrae is currently a student at Highline Public Schools, and Keisha feels that the years of support she’s received from Graves and Peterson have helped her envision and plan a future for her and Diontrae. Keisha is enrolled at Highline Community College and is set to receive her A.A. and work as an administrative assistant. She is grateful for the support from district staff such as Graves and Peterson and 4C Coalition mentor, Coach Nick, and she is most proud to share that her son is thriving in school.

    “Knowing that they’re there for you, it makes you stand stronger and confident that you can accomplish anything,” reflects Keisha.

    Read more about the Seattle Public Schools McKinney-Vento program.