Our Most Vulnerable Students

By Brandi Baker-Rudicel, High School Teacher from Cottage Grove, OR

I have a multi-faceted role in the South Lane School District. I teach and coordinate services for teen parents and also work with families that are homeless. The teen parent program is the whole reason I became an educator. I was a teen parent, and I was also a homeless teen parent. I personally understand how essential these programs are and how having access to wrap-around services is absolutely necessary for many of the students I work with.

Even though the need here would justify a full time position for the homeless students’ program, we only have half time funding. We need more support than we have now. We all kinds of resources for these families: laundry vouchers, school supplies, toiletries, access to food, clothing. Being homeless comes with increased mobility, chronic absenteeism, the need for drug and alcohol abuse services, a need for more prevention programs — the list goes on and on. The fact that funding has been cut for educational assistants also impacts these students. Students who are homeless tend to miss a lot of school, and educational assistants are often the ones who help them catch up.

We are fortunate to even have a teen parent program. A lot of school districts anything due to lack of funding. We still need childcare programs for our schools and more funding for transportation services for teen parents. When there isn’t funding for these types of services, teen parents have to manage childcare and transportation on their own. That usually doesn’t happen, and those students have a higher risk of dropping out. The chances of teen parents being successful increases with participation in the types of programs we have here. I have personally seen our students become very productive members of our community, and many have gone on to college.

I have a lot of concerns about what budget cuts will mean for the students I work with. We need more school districts that have teen parent programs and services, not fewer. I worry about the families I serve through our homeless support programs. We know that this part of our community is growing, especially in rural communities like ours. Oregon families need funding for wrap-around services and for programs that help our most vulnerable students. Taking these programs away will negatively impact these kids. In the long run, that is a big problem for our communities and for Oregon.

Brandi Baker-Rudicel is an educator in Cottage Grove, OR.