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During These Trying Times, Caring for our Communities is Critical

By Janine Ramirez, San Jose Regional Director, Community Engagement

 

It had only been a few days since Santa Clara County announced “Shelter In Place” when we got a call from Eva, a mother of two whose daughters attended Rocketship Discovery Prep. Eva was laid off from her job due to the store’s closing. Worried about how to pay her mortgage and bills and what this meant for her family, she turned to Rocketship Educational Organizers (EO’s) for guidance. Eva, like so many of our parents, had built relationships with our EOs previous to this crisis; so when disaster struck, she reached out immediately.

The San Jose Community Engagement team had already begun thinking through how to support our Rocketship families in the midst of the crisis. But Eva’s call highlighted the urgency and scale of the need and showed us that we needed to do more.

Many of the families we serve live paycheck-to-paycheck. As Eva shared, “when you live in an area that is so expensive, you cannot afford to save for the future; you live in the now.” In this crisis, as in so many other difficult situations, the hardest and fastest hit are often those who are already most vulnerable. Eva turned to her friends at Rocketship for help, and the San Jose Parent Community Task Force pointed to her to various resources that exist in the community. She was able to successfully defer payment of her mortgage for two months, alleviating some of the immediate stress and allowing her to reshift her focus to her family.

Community resources helped Eva, and being the parent leader that she is, she is now helping others. She is proactively sharing the resources that we compiled to other parents, thus broadening the benefits to even more families, many of whom have already taken advantage of the food banks and financial assistance programs. Eva stressed how hard it can be for a family to seek assistance, which is why she is reaching out to families to share the information, which is why she wanted to do more, and so did we. There are many parents experiencing similar hardships and it is each and every one of those families who have inspired us to do more.

What I have learned is that at Rocketship, we go fast and we go big. Sara Escamilla, Associate Director of School Communities, had the vision to replicate what was happening in San Jose across every region, and in just a few short days, Daiana and the broader Parent Leadership team, with support from Regional Directors, compiled a list of community resources and began serving families. Through the CareCorp initiative, every family receives a wellness survey that allows us as an organization to systematically identify the families who need resources. Every school site across the nation has CareCorp Members and a Captain who are the first line of defense when it comes to helping our families in need. CareCorp across the regions connect their families to the resources that exist in their community. When an escalation occurs, they are redirected to their GCE lead for further assistance. In San Jose alone, we’ve attended to nearly 40 escalations.

Our families across the regions are strong, but these are challenging and unpredictable times. Many of our families are living with a lot of uncertainty, but what they can be certain of is that Rocketship cares and will do everything possible to help. I am so proud of the local Growth, Community and Engagement (GCE) team: Ernest Alnas, Tatiana Villasenor, Amy Parada and Anna Alcaraz, who leaped into this effort and keep asking what else they can do. It is a privilege to be in an organization where people care so much. I am both proud and inspired by the commitment to our families by my fellow colleagues, and how a small local effort eventually turned into a national campaign to help our families everywhere.

Published on April 14, 2020

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