Rita McKeon, a second-year AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer at Safe Passages, is the Family Resource Center (FRC) Coordinator at Ralph J. Bunche High School. Rita was the Family Resource VISTA last year as well. The program was so successful that Ms. Betsye Steele, Principal of Bunche High School, made sure the program had its own designated space this year. The new and improved FRC even has a washer & dryer, computers, and a large freezer for the families to use!
Safe Passages partners with schools throughout Oakland and Alameda County to operate the FRCs, including Coliseum College Prep Academy, Community United Elementary School, United for Success Academy, Bridge Academy, and of course, Bunche. The purpose of an FRC is to connect students and their families to the resources they need as quickly as possible and be a place for students and families to come and feel safe and supported on campus. If a member of the school community needs access to food, health/medical, housing, senior citizen services, employment, emergency benefits, homeless services or legal counseling resources, they make an appointment at the FRC and are then connected to the proper services.
A large part of an FRC Coordinator’s duties consists of building relationships with various resources so that they can be sure they are connecting families to agencies that will be helpful and responsive. For instance, one of Rita’s primary partners at Bunche is Annie Loe, the Agency Services Coordinator at the Alameda County Food Bank. The food bank sponsors all of Bunche High School’s food distributions and ensures that the FRC’s food pantry is fully stocked and up to code. Rita and Ms. Loe work closely together to ensure that the families always receive the best quality products. The first food distribution event of the year will be held at Bunche Academy on Thursday, September 21st from 9 am to 4 pm; make sure to check it out!
Because families are an integral part of the school communities, FRC Coordinators are also tasked with organizing family engagement activities throughout the year. At Ralph Bunche High School, Rita and partners will be hosting “Family Engagement Nights” to be held the last Thursday of each month, which will feature performances by the students and prizes for the families. These events will also feature a particular workshop on various topics for students and their families, at the request of the parents – such as “Tax Prep” and “What to Expect When Your Child Applies to College.” Principal Steele says that she “wants families to have a voice on campus,” and is very supportive of parent outreach efforts.
Between the food distributions, various workshops, bingo nights, and holiday drives and celebrations, the Bunche FRC served approximately 70 families during the 2016-2017 school year. Rita’s goal for the 2017-2018 school year is to increase the number of families served and having even more parent participation. She wants to make sure that the FRC is “a place for the families; where all families are actively involved, with the end goal being that parents will eventually run the center themselves.”