#102 – Reflections on Vulnerability: Rethinking Schools as Community Hubs

Written by Kim Perez, Family Empowerment Associate

Dancers from South Meck middle school performing Mexican traditional folkloric dances at Quail Hollow Middle School’s International Festival.

What does it mean to be a community member when there is a lack of investment in supporting families and people? 

As I have visited different schools in multiple communities in the past 90 (and more) days with SchermCo, I have found two key points to be true: 

  • That there is an extreme lack of investment in supporting families and people, and 
  • That vulnerability should be met with humility and care. 

I have been given the opportunity to learn more about the community I am a part of. I have even come across resources that not only families but also I need. These are not needs that exist in a vacuum; they are community needs and give reasons why schools should be used as community hubs. Why should families have to leave their community solely to access resources? 

Being a community member means that the term stops being an adjective and becomes a verb. Playing an active part in your community starts to affect the surrounding communities. This is where we see that vulnerability should be met with humility and care. I have been met with vulnerability for families, and I am beyond thankful that I have been allowed into their lives to help. Families have trusted me with their vulnerability. At times, these communities feel that there is a risk associated with asking for help. There is a fear of reaching out, which can be due to financial, housing, citizenship status, or another underlying cause. Their worries reflect the lack of investment in supporting newly arrived families and families struggling for generations.  

Quail Hollow Middle School’s orchestra performing a medley of Latino Folk music.

The vulnerability that I have been met with has not only been from families but also from teachers. At one of our partner schools, we are supporting school-wide initiatives to reduce chronic absenteeism. It has been a collaborative effort between teachers and SchermCo. We go into their classrooms to provide them time during the day to call families of students who have been chronically absent. Although it is something we offer, it does not work for all teachers. As a former educator, I remember the days when students would act completely different the moment a stranger would step foot into the classroom. For example, when asked about Teacher Appreciation Week, I would always ask that my classroom not have any visitors, and I would not want others to step into a meticulously curated environment, which is something I understand. In the past three months, I have been building trust, as our work is relational. For example, one of the teachers went from refusing me into her classroom to completely trusting me with her scholars. She showed complete vulnerability by not only allowing me into her classroom but also handing over situations of families that were coming to her for help. After having the time to speak with her, I learned about a student in her classroom who had recently arrived from Guatemala, it was only her second day, and she had spent it crying. I was allowed to talk with the student outside, connected the parents with resources and their extended family, explained to the student what to expect for the next week, and reassured her that she was in good hands. Being able to ask for help for yourself can be difficult; being able to ask for help for others who are expecting YOU to help them takes vulnerability. The help needed for the student reflected the lack of Spanish-speaking staff at the school, where more than 45% of the students and families were Spanish-speaking. I felt beyond honored to be able to aid not only the family but also the educator. It allowed for a space to be created where the educator and I can now speak openly and honestly about the communities we inhabit and the needs we are seeing. 

Families walking through a showcase of different Latin American countries and community resources at Quail Hollow’s International Festival.

That’s just one example. The vulnerability that teachers show has been humbling. They have allowed me to come into their classrooms and shared their students and families with us so that those under their care can be connected to additional resources and receive services. It has been a true collaboration. I look forward to fostering more intentional relationships within the communities I serve. More than anything, I look forward to learning more about individuals and communities in Charlotte. Taking part in family empowerment work means I have the privilege of being connected to multiple organizations; as Charlotte grows, so will community needs. I am excited to see development in the non-profit center as we continue to meet needs.

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