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Houston ISD centralizing wraparound support services for students and their families at new Sunrise Centers

FEATURES :  Nov. 30, 2023 EDUCATION

HISD's new Sunrise Centers feature clothing closets for students

Raul Rodriguez/Houston ISD

The Houston Independent School District has bolstered its wraparound services with the opening of seven new Sunrise Centers since September. These services assist with a variety of non-instructional needs, including after-school care, clothing, enrichment activities, food, health care, school supplies and other resources.

HISD introduced its wraparound services department in 2017, and now employ a specialist on every campus. The Sunrise Centers represent a different approach, addressing multiple needs at a single location.

“Sunrise Centers are meant to be service hubs in communities, where HISD is working alongside social service agencies to provide more access to these resources,” said Najah Callander, HISD’s senior executive director for external engagement. “We want to expand capacity for nonprofits who do this work right in the communities where our families live.

“What we’re hoping for is that the centers become a functioning one-stop shop for families. We know our students are going to be more successful when they have their basic needs met. It matters if a student is healthy, looking their best and has all their supplies. It makes them feel like they can take on their day.”

Sunrise Centers were created partly in response to the HISD Student Needs Survey, conducted by the Kinder Institute’s Houston Education Research Consortium to determine the most common barriers facing families within HISD. HERC also conducted a drive-time analysis, enabling HISD to strategically place Sunrise Centers in areas that reach the most students.

The largest school district in Texas, HISD serves over 189,000 students across 274 campuses. In HERC’s survey, 67% of respondents in grades 3-6 and 54% of students in grades 7-12 reported having at least one unmet need. Among the older contingent, Black and Hispanic students reported the highest amount of need.

The Sunrise Centers are located at the BakerRipley Gulfton Sharpstown Campus, the Brock Re-Engagement Center in First Ward, the Cornerstone Community Campus near Sunnyside, Mission Milby in the East End, the Morefield Boys & Girls Club in southeast Houston, the West Orem Family YMCA in the Central Southwest neighborhood and the Youth Development Center in Fifth Ward. The district plans to expand its coverage in the years to come.

“We're looking at data and really trying to understand what people need,” Callander said. “When people come to a center there is an intake process where people can describe what brought them in that day, or what are some bigger needs they have that we can support them through. Having a continued partnership with the Kinder Institute is going to allow us to evaluate­ our success, and use data that we need to make the best possible decisions.”

The student needs survey, conducted during the 2021-2022 school year, showed that 27% of students lacked access to mental health services. Callander said this need has become more pronounced since the Sunrise Centers opened, and that HISD has engaged with multiple providers to address it.

“In every community that we’re in, mental health services are a major need,” Callander said. “Especially post-COVID. We’re seeing it with our students and our families as people try to process the last three years, and in some cases are starting over and having to live life differently. There have been a lot of reckonings for families, and people are thinking and preparing for things differently post-pandemic. Some of those barriers and stigmas surrounding mental health are coming down, so we have a real opportunity to serve people in that area.”

While the Sunrise Centers are primarily geared toward addressing the needs of students, they also offer assistance specifically for adults. Parents of HISD students may enroll in GED and/or English as a Second Language courses, access employment resources and receive free tax preparation assistance.

“It is amazing for kids to see their parents involved in learning,” Callander said. “We have an ability for people to do quite a few workforce development trainings that will allow people to get jobs that pay a bit more. That’s just one way that can set families on a different trajectory.”

RELATED URBAN EDGE
Wraparound services event
New research is helping Houston get its arms around the needs of students and families
FEATURES :  Jan. 27, 2023

Recent findings by the Kinder Institute’s Houston Education Research Consortium indicate that mental health services, food and housing are among the greatest non-instructional needs for students in the Houston Independent School District. HERC, HISD and local partners are looking to find more ways to bridge resources within the community to meet these needs.

EDUCATION
RELATED RESEARCH
HISD Student Needs Survey: Fall 2021
Nov. 15, 2022

HISD's 2021 student needs survey measured student needs across five categories: health, mental health, basic needs, home learning environment, and enrichment activities.

EDUCATION
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