Family Connections Centers have long been an important part of the Bellevue School District. A team of 12 work collaboratively to ensure that students have what they need to succeed in the classroom. That work often includes partnering with other staff at schools, such as counselors, and working with parents and guardians, as well as other organizations and community partners. Ana Lewis says that her focus is making sure the family and the students have what they need so that they can be better prepared to learn in class. “I am very heavily focused on the value and the importance of education,” says Lewis. She believes that BSD has done a phenomenal job of providing connectivity and a way for students to overcome barriers through the FCCs.
The focus starts with academics, but it can also mean helping families navigate where to find assistance for a myriad of needs. “For me, it’s about making connections with the families and building trust so that you can connect them to resources in the community and within the school,” says Julie McIntyre. The needs and tools vary depending on the student and the family, from social-emotional and mental health support to internet connectivity and domestic violence to medical services.
Even before the pandemic, families often needed help with food assistance or rent assistance. Ensuring that families stay housed is vitally important. “The outcomes for students that experience homelessness are poor, it’s critical we do everything we can to keep students housed,” says FCC Coordinator Melissa Slater. For students to learn they need a lot – to not be hungry, to be warm, housed and to have the opportunity to succeed at remote learning they need internet connectivity. The FCCs focus on meeting those needs so that students are positioned to thrive in school.
Longtime Family Engagement Specialist Judy Hunsberger has had an impact on many students and their families, and she hears from families years later. “The reward is when the family says, ‘thank you’ or they come back and share good news.”
“It takes a lot of coordination and collaboration,” says Judy Hunsberger, who has served BSD and students as a Family Engagement Coordinator for 12 years. Working with families across many schools, she has seen that it takes many people inside and outside BSD to make a difference. The Family Engagement Specialists work together, with other BSD staff and with outside groups. “It’s very positive, it’s very collaborative – it’s teamwork.”