Outreach facilitators in Monongalia County Schools help students by helping their families.
Almost like it was planned, Monongalia County is starting this extra-stressful COVID school year with its largest-ever crack team of problem-solvers at the ready.
They’re titled outreach facilitators—social workers by training, hired into positions the school system has increased from an initial three two years ago to six last year and now nine.
“Their big role is eliminating the barriers that are in the way of students being successful in school,” says Michael Ryan, coordinator of student supports for Monongalia County Schools. They do that by helping student families in need—connecting them with community resources like family counseling services, food distribution powerhouse Pantry Plus More, the free store and emergency financial assistance at Christian Help, and others.
Before the outreach facilitator positions were created, school counselors—who take care of matters more closely related to student achievement—were being tasked with increasing numbers of family-related issues, according to Ryan. The outreach facilitators solve that by specializing in those issues.
It was clear already in the outreach facilitators’ first year that their services help students. Attendance is up, Ryan says. “We’re seeing a difference in the kids, their affect and their emotions—they’re coming to school happier, they’re being more social at school, they’re participating at school. They say ‘I want to be at school.’” Happier kids are likelier to learn.
In this time of COVID, the outreach facilitators are busier than ever, especially with kids back in school but not physically back in the buildings yet, Ryan says. “They’re doing a lot more porch visits, making sure families are OK, the kids are OK—because school is an important part of their day, not just for learning but for food and socialization.”
Every Mon County school has at least a part-time outreach facilitator. If you know a school family in need, have them contact their school office and ask to speak with theirs.