What unique challenges are Steps students and families facing?
Beyond the stresses of school closure, many Steps families face frightening economic uncertainty. If they are essential workers whose employers remain open, Steps parents (and even students) must keep going to work to preserve their jobs and make ends meet. Our students thus have to fend for themselves at home, and perhaps also take care of younger siblings. For others, reduced hours or job loss cuts directly into already stretched family budgets for rent, utilities, household items, diapers, clothing, and food.
How have Steps staff been responding? How are others helping?
Our small but dedicated Steps staff has been working closely with partners in the Public Schools of Brookline (PSB), the Brookline Housing Authority, local organizations, and other town and state agencies to provide information and services as quickly as possible to assist our Steps families in a comprehensive and coordinated manner.
Elementary and Middle School Students. In addition to running all of our programs virtually, the Steps team has been checking in with each elementary and middle school student’s family on a weekly basis to ascertain their current needs, including technology support, access to free food, and individualized academic help.
High School and College Students. Steps College Success Initiative Program Director Tony Wells conducts outreach to older students through individual check-ins. CSI is ensuring that students continue their classes online and stay on track to complete semester requirements. Our team has also helped students arrange virtual college tours, complete financial aid applications, and apply for summer internships. Thanks to our generous donors, each graduating high school senior also received either a free laptop or printer to prepare them for college.
Our work over the past six months have included:
Food. We are making sure that Steps families are aware of hours and pick-up locations for free food from the Brookline Food Pantry and free breakfast/lunch through PSB Food Services.
Money for Basic Needs. We are also providing Steps families with financial support available for rent, utilities, household needs, and food through the Brookline Safety Net Fund (administered by The Brookline Center and funded through the Brookline Community Foundation).
Technology: We have ensured that families know how to pick up and use Chromebooks for their children being provided by PSB for distance learning, including staff directly dropping off Chromebooks to students at their homes.
Supplies: We have gathered and distributed school supply bags for over 140 Steps students, and are in the process of providing thermometers and headphones as school begins. We are grateful to our partners the Brookline Rotary, Brookline Safety Net Fund, and City on a Hill Church for their donations!