Compass Charter Schools: Empowering Scholars Experiencing Homelessness to Pursue their Dreams
There is a proven link between homelessness, residential mobility and lower levels of academic achievement. Youth experiencing homelessness also have more problems at school and increased rates of grade retention. Furthermore, homelessness is associated with an 87% increased likelihood of dropping out of school.
For young people facing homelessness, schools offer stability, support, and a gateway to essential services and resources. Schools not only serve as safe spaces for these individuals today but also as vehicles for providing our youth with opportunities for a brighter and more promising future through education.
“I see lots of high-mobility scholars and many who are living doubled up,” says Karla Gonzalez, McKinney-Vento Liaison at Compass Charter Schools. “I do my best to reduce and eliminate the education barriers they face. For example, when a child does not have a computer, I find a loan program and when a scholar does not have access to the internet, I find an internet reimbursement program. For those staying in a shelter or sharing their living space with many people, the lack of privacy can make it difficult to learn virtually, so I provide earbuds.”
Compass Charter Schools is a virtual, independent study public charter school serving thousands of scholars TK-grade 12 in California. The McKinney Vento Program at Compass offers a multitude of resources for scholars and families experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. This program ensures that children and youth experiencing homelessness are protected with the rights to enroll or stay in school, even when housing becomes uncertain.
In California, there were more than 183,300 homeless scholars enrolled in school during the 2021-2022 school year. At Compass Charter Schools, last year, nearly 10% of their 3,136 scholars were experiencing some form of homelessness and more than half were socioeconomically disadvantaged.
Karla explains, “Most of the other McKinney-Vento Liaisons in California work at brick-and-mortar schools, but because our programs are offered virtually, it can be difficult to keep in regular contact with our scholars experiencing homelessness. We’ve become quite innovative in how we approach many issues faced by our unhoused scholars.”
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act was initially passed into law in 1987 and is federal legislation that ensures the educational rights and protections of children and youth experiencing homelessness. It guarantees educational rights and supports for students experiencing homelessness, and seeks to remove any barriers these students may face in succeeding in school.
Karla supports and advocates for McKinney-Vento scholars and acts as the liaison between Compass staff, scholars, families and community agencies. Additionally, she works with foster youth and foster families and is the primary contact person for new and current military families.
Karla first heard about National Runaway Prevention Month (NRPM) at an industry training. She registered Compass as a new partner for NRPM2023 and has been posting on the school’s social media pages as well as spreading awareness through events.
We admired Karla’s commitment to ensuring the school’s scholars and their families have opportunities for success. To learn more about Compass Charter Schools, visit www.compasscharters.org.