It Takes a Village: Social Supports

The Ruby Bridges School of Community Service & Social Justice intends to weave a social safety net so tight that all students are provided with the opportunity to fulfill their dreams. To realize this vision, the school must provide much more than just academic instruction. So many children from low-income families arrive to school unprepared to learn because their basic needs have not been met. As any teacher can testify, hungry students are not as attentive as well-nourished ones. Children with headaches from squinting at the board routinely go without glasses because their parents cannot afford the trip to the eye doctor. A child with uncontrolled asthma will likely have excessive absences, while one with a toothache might suffer endlessly without the prospect of a visit to the dentist. In addition to health issues, for many students, unfulfilled psychological needs pose an even greater challenge. In New Orleans in particular, requests for counseling services almost always exceed the capacity that the school can provide. Even parents and caregivers who are able to provide for basic needs do not always know the best way to support their child’s educational progress. Without an understanding of child development, the families do not have the resources and tools to help their children succeed.

“RBS intends to weave a social safety net so tight that all students are provided with the opportunity to fulfill their dreams.”

RBS wants to provide a strong foundation of support to ensure children come to school every day ready to learn. Relying on national best practices, such as the Harlem Children’s Zone and through partnerships with businesses, non-profits, and government agencies, RBS will offer services, programs, and classes to promote the health, stability, and development of its students.

Health – The school will assist families in accessing medical, vision, and dental care. In addition, students and families will receive instruction in nutrition, healthy eating choices, and the benefits of physical fitness. School-based classes and events will also encourage regular physical activity.

Stability – Counseling for students will be provided at the school, but family members will also have access to a support center. Social workers and counselors in the support center will offer services free of charge and assist families in locating and accessing other service providers. The support center would maintain relationships with local government and non-profit agencies to quickly and easily direct families to the resources they need, such as legal assistance or financial advice.

Development – Long before their children enroll in school, parents and caregivers will be invited to attend classes that explain the basics of child development. Parents will learn to support their child’s emotional and intellectual growth, so the child arrives to school better prepared to learn. RBS will also offer access to early childhood programs and pre-kindergarten.

A summer camp in a rural area is also planned to work in conjunction with RBS, so that children can have year-round access to the tools and services school provides. The summer camp will also allow for students from different regions to be introduced to the curriculum and share in the amazing experiences the school has to offer.

The school will also host a teacher training, to instruct the administration and staff in the innovative curriculum.