NAEHCY serves an invaluable purpose by providing the most up to date information about educational rights and programs for children and youth who are homeless. My most recent experience with this organization was getting clarification of students' rights based upon the McKinney Vento Education law when a school district is "redistricting," and many of the schools of origin will no longer exist with the same students and staff or with the same program focus. School community stability is critical to the well being of students who are homeless.
The National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth(NAEHCY) is the voice and social conscience for the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness. It has been an absolute honor to work within such an amazing group of diverse, passionate, dedicated people, all determined to positively influence the lives of our most vulnerable friends and neighbors. NAEHCY harnesses the expertise, energy, and good will of its vast membership and uses it to shape federal, state and local policy, practice, and law; therefore impacting children and youth and their families across the nation. NAEHCY identifies and promotes best practices through media channels, publications, and the annual conference. It helps educate jursidictional leaders, legislators, advocates, school administrators, teachers, social workers, shelter staff, and other direct service providers so that collectively, we are able to meet the needs of our children and youth experiencing homelessness. Without NAEHCY, we would not have nearly the level of interconnectedness and coordination needed to achieve results.
NAEHCY is an amazing organization run by passionate advocates, many of whom work as volunteers. NAEHCY organizes a conference every year for professionals in the field of homeless education and homeless services. They provide technical expertise and advocacy for people working with homeless children and youth at all levels of service provision – local, community, school district, regional, state, and among peers at the national level. Just one example of their great work: A student in a western state had been homeless for 6 years and had not had a stable home during that time where he could complete school. Given all those challenges, he was about 2 years behind schedule in completing high school. He turned 19 but was completing 10th grade. This student had talent as a singer and had won many school and regional competitions, but he was denied the ability to compete at the state level. The state office on extracurricular sports and activities said that he was too old to compete in singing with other high school students. Their reasoning was that his advanced age created an unfair advantage for him over other children and youth. NAEHCY advocates assisted the state education office in understanding the student’s rights under the law and also in recognizing how critical extracurricular sports and activities are to all students, since those competitions might create scholarship and job opportunities. This particular student was not at any advantage over other students, since he had not had a consistent school experience and had an unstable home life that disrupted his education. By competing, this student had the opportunity to earn recognition that could help him in supporting his future educational needs. Extracurricular activities help kids in many other ways as well, from building leadership skills to networking; this kind of involvement helps to develop the whole person and offers a complete education. These battles are fought every day in communities all over the country. I, for one, am so thankful that NAEHCY is there to provide expertise and support to professionals in the field of homeless education.
NAEHCY is a wonderful organization with which I'm proudly affiliated. NAEHCY's good work is most easily observable though its LeTendre Scholarships - a select group of youth, whose lives have been disrupted by homelessness but who nonetheless pursued an education for themselves, are awarded college scholarship funding. It's a remarkable experience for the students, the organization and the hundreds of association members who attend the annual LeTendre Scholarship Awards Ceremony. Just as significant but far less visible, NAEHCY's small, dedicated staff and team of volunteers work tirelessly to ensure federal, state and local policies best support the educational needs of temporarily housed students and families as well as the school district homeless liaisons upon whom the students so often depend. As the economic downturn has put pressure on families, children have become hidden casualties of Wall Street's collapse; they inherit parental stress and endure their families' losses. The impact of this housing instability too often manifests in the classroom, thereby extending the effects of today's downturn well into tomorrow. Please join me in recognizing NAEHCY's efforts to combat these risks.