How One Rocketship School Used Data to Feed Families
by Eliza Kritz and Sierra Freeman, Rocketship Redwood City Prep teachers
It’s been almost a year of COVID and by now we are all familiar with the fact that it has disproportionately impacted our families. As individual educators, we know that it can be frustrating to feel limited in our ability to help our families outside of the classroom as they suffer from housing insecurity, job losses, food shortages, etc. But where others see limits, we see new possibilities. So at Rocketship Redwood City Prep, we recently launched a new Adopt-a-Family Program.
Many of our families have struggled financially all year. Nancy Covarrubias, the Redwood City Prep Enrichment Coordinator who is responsible for helping with Care Corps communications, noticed that the same group of families were responding each week with the same needs. Though we provided community resources each week, some were difficult to access or understand, some families did not feel comfortable in accessing outside resources, and some resources are only available to documented citizens. This meant that at least 20 of our families were continuously struggling to find the help they needed to feed their children, meet their needs, and pay their bills.
Nancy wanted to know how we as a school community could help our families more directly instead of just providing links or sharing resources. We wanted to do more for our families. As a data-responsive community, we decided that we needed to find a new way to meet families’ needs instead of sticking with a system that was clearly not working. Through identifying this need and sharing with our principal, Karina Barboza, we were able to take this idea to our Positive Behavioral Supports and Intervention (PBIS) team. From there, PBIS took on the task of directly connecting our families with financial assistance and food by launching the “Adopt-a-Family” program.
The goal of Adopt-a-Family was to use GoFundMe and Venmo to raise money within the community and from our personal spheres so that we could then donate directly to families from our Care Corps list. We wanted to provide targeted relief to families in order to best meet their unique needs. We saw a myriad of different challenges facing our families: in some situations, parents were struggling to feed their children healthy meals with fresh ingredients; in another, a family had just experienced a robbery and was unable to make rent. We decided that giving families direct funds and food would give parents the flexibility to meet their family’s specific needs.
Moving forward, the PBIS team and the rest of the staff began circulating the Go Fund Me to family members and on social media. Through Adopt-a-family, we gave staff two options for getting involved. Teachers could choose to donate food to our school food drive and/or support with fundraising and partnering with families. The weekend before launching the Go Fund Me, a PBIS member and parent, Vanessa Franco, connected us with a local group in the community, the Silverback Bikers, who provided generous food kits and funding for several of our families right away; in fact, they were eager to begin delivering food January 30th, right before our fundraiser officially began. Their urgency to get involved so quickly speaks volumes to their willingness to support their own community, organize, and quickly meet families’ needs.
The GoFundMe officially launched on Monday, February 1st. The urgency with which our staff raised funds was astonishing; in less than one week, we had raised over $6,000, enabling us to provide 20 families with 300 dollars each in cash and a box of fresh food (another donation from the Silverback Bikers). Last Saturday we met on campus as a team to divide and conquer.
The Silverback Bikers showed up Saturday morning with boxes of fresh food they had picked up that morning. Through the fundraiser we had also acquired two space heaters, blankets, some board games, and art supplies, which we offered to families as well. Families were very appreciative and expressed relief after receiving meaningful support, as well as the community connection everyone so desperately needs right now. Also exciting is the fact that the Silverback Bikers and our families were able to make lasting connections with their fellow community members. The bikers offered to be a continuous source of support for them, which ultimately is the best outcome we could have hoped for; families now have a connection within the community they can turn to for help, rather than suffering in isolation.
All schools have the power to help their families in this way. We at Redwood City are a special team, but we are not unique. We did something that teachers at Rocketship already do regularly: we used data to identify a problem and propose a solution. Then, we asked our community for help, which turned out to be the easiest part. With community organizing, school support, and targeted data we were able to achieve what we set out to do as a campus.
Eliza Kritz is a proud founding teacher from Rocketship Redwood City Prep. She currently teaches 4th and 5th grade STEM and leads the school’s PBIS team.
Sierra Freeman is the Associate Mental Health Professional at Rocketship Redwood City. She is currently in her 4th year at RRWC and is the PBIS SEL and Data lead.
Published on February 17, 2021