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US schools help homeless students graduate

Words by Tess Becker

Homelessness pervades the United States and as the housing crisis worsens – with a potential recession on the horizon – the problem may worsen.

More than 500,000 people around the US experience homelessness every year. Students that find themselves without consistent housing are at a much greater risk of missing graduation than their peers; something that’s an incredibly important benchmark for success in their adult lives. 

But one school district in Washington is working to help unhoused students find a path to graduation. 

Inside North Thurston Public Schools

What makes North Thurston different than other areas around the United States? One of the biggest things is that the schools hired staff called “student navigators” whose sole function was to address the needs of students experiencing homelessness.

These staff help students with things like housing, food, belongingness, and post-graduation plans. 

North Thurston’s graduation rates for homeless students rose from 65% in 2017 to 84% in 2020 and 81% in 2021, just within the average graduation rates for all other students. 

“If you are worried about whether or not you’re going to be able to eat or where you’re going to sleep, it is very, very hard to concentrate on your Spanish test,” said Leslie Van Leishout, who helped create North Thurston’s student navigator program.

Although the program has shown great success the funding for it is limited and shrinking. As Covid relief funds dwindle, people are fighting to keep the program alive and even expand it.

North Thurston is aiming to expand the program to elementary and middle school-aged students if it can secure the funding.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Reduced Inequalities.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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