Wiley Canyon Elementary opens Family Resource Center

District Coordinator of Special Programs, Sarah Johnson, right, shows Maria Velez and her three sons, from left, Jaden, Steven and Hector Lemus the coats available as they are the first family to visit the Wiley Canyon Elementary School Family Resource Center in Newhall on Thursday, November 21, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal
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With the intent to distribute clothes, food and comfort, Newhall School District officials held the grand opening for a Family Resource Center at Wiley Canyon Elementary on Thursday.

The Family Resource Center at Wiley Canyon, which is run entirely on donations, marks the second large center the district has opened within its school sites, with a smaller one located at Newhall Elementary.

The idea of the center, according to Sarah Johnson, the district coordinator of special programs, is to allow families and kids to come in and find what they need without being charged a dime.

District Coordinator of Special Programs, Sarah Johnson, left, and Principal Tim Lankford discuss the “stuff bags” and clothing available at the Wiley Canyon Elementary School Family Resource Center in Newhall on Thursday, November 21, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

“There are families in our district that don’t have what they may need to help students achieve in school,” said Johnson. “Yes, there are resources out there, but how could we further what we’re doing for students in order for them to achieve?”

Students and parents can walk around the cleanly kept room, and peruse the clearly labeled cabinets. Within each are clothes that are specific to age and gender. Tucked in the corner there are racks filled with shoes appropriate for all ages.

On the opposite side of the room are adult clothes that parents can also look at and consider taking home with them.

As you continue your journey, tote in tow, there other cabinets also filled, but with toiletries, food, games, towels and even night lights that clip onto students’ books and allow them to read at night.

Maria Velez and her three sons from left, Steven,5, Jaden, 4, and Hector Lemus, 5, go through clothes as they are the first family to visit the Wiley Canyon Elementary School Family Resource Center in Newhall on Thursday, November 21, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

“School is difficult. Imagine doing (school), when you’re hungry, imagine doing that when you don’t have a place to lay your head at night. Imagine you don’t have clothes that fit,” said Johnson. “Every child can achieve better if they’ve got some food in their tummy, and if they’ve got a jacket on a cold day and some shoes that are fitting on their feet.”

In a second room next door there are posters indicating services available to families as well as computers available for parents to fill out housing or job applications. There’s also a space for the district’s community liaisons to sit and speak in English and/or Spanish to families who are looking for more information on what is out there and available to them.

Superintendent Jeff Pezel said he was inspired to lead the creation of the Family Resource Centers, with the other large one open currently at McGrath Elementary School, after seeing work being done at the Sulphur Springs Union School District family resource center.

“If they feel like they’re coming to school and their clothes are too small, and they don’t feel like they fit in, it’s going to get in the way of them being able to engage and feel accepted,” said Pelzel. “And I just look at it through the equity lens … our job in our district is to make sure every kid has the same opportunity and whatever we need to do to give them an additional support.

Newhall School District Superintendent Jeff Pelzel, left, and District Coordinator of Special Programs, Sarah Johnson, welcome Maria Velez and her three sons as they are the first family to visit the Wiley Canyon Elementary School Family Resource Center in Newhall on Thursday, November 21, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

“We provide supports in our school district academically,” Pelzel added. “Why can’t we do it from the social-emotional side as well.”

Pelzel said that over the last few years the homeless count within the district has increased and is expected to increase in the future. He hopes that with the successful implementation of the Wiley Canyon and McGrath Elementary family resource centers, the district can start looking at putting them in all 10 NSD school sites that are specific to the needs of each school’s specific communities.

“The Newhall School District looks to support our students and families always from academics, to social-emotional, to just basic needs,” said Pelzel. “That’s our job. We want to make sure that families know that we are in partnership with them, to create an environment and a support system to enable their kids to be able to be successful.”

The Wiley Canyon Elementary School Family Resource Center is available to families throughout the district, according to officials.

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