Everyone is ready to learn

Over the summer, volunteers raised more than $7,000 to help needy families provide new clothes for their children to start the new school year.

The Back to School Project, coordinated by Readiness to Learn, provided clothing vouchers and a free haircut for approximately 140 students with 45 others waiting for assistance.

The fund-raising effort is one of several changes to the organization that helps families resolve non-academic problems that could interfere with a child’s education. This is the first year the Back to School Project has been offered in Oak Harbor, however, it’s been in the South Whidbey School District for the past eight years.

“We’re trying to expand services we offer to the community,” said coordinator Gail LaVassar.

Readiness to Learn and Families in Transition has a new location at Crescent Harbor Elementary School.

LaVassar said operating out of a school provides a more familiar spot for families than the previous location at the school district offices.

She hopes the new location provides a drop-in center for families to seek resources for help.

Last year, Readiness to Learn served 54 students while Families in Transition helped out 132 students who didn’t have any permanent housing.

LaVassar said there could be more students helped this year. Staff will contact families helped through the Back to School Project in coming weeks to see if they have any other issues.

“It’s a real process of working with families and hearing where the gaps are,” LaVassar said.

Readiness to learn also provides classes to help families. Those classes touch upon parenting skills, self esteem on the family level and how to develop capable young people.

By offering skills to improve the family, students will do better in school.

The main thing is to make sure they’re stable in their school,” said Kelly Jolly, liaison for Families in Transition.

LaVassar hopes to work with local organizations such as the Help House and the Opportunity Council and refer families who need help.

Being in a new location, the three-person staff is busy making themselves at home. They also have to make sure people know Readiness to Learn and Families in Transition are available to all families in the Oak Harbor School District. LaVassar said she hopes to have information available in all of the schools.

The programs are funded by grants that are spread out between the school districts in Island County. The three school districts on Whidbey Island receive $44,000 from McKinney-Vento Act funds to pay for the Families in Transition program, while the four school districts in Island County share a $109,000 grant through the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

For more information about Readiness to Learn and Families in Transition, call 279-5072.

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