In The Community
WE ARE VB addresses the needs of homeless and at-risk high school students in partnership with school administrators and social workers throughout the Virginia Beach City public school system. WE ARE VB is committed to implementing programs which meet the immediate needs of these students and lay the groundwork for consistent, long-term support programs which foster self-esteem, dignity and their ability to meet their full potential as students and citizens. Our program model allows us to provide consistent, long-term programming, as well as emergency assistance as needs arise. Long-term programs include:
- In-school Pantry program. These pantries provide students access to basic daily items they need both in and out of school, including shelf-stable food items (granola bars, milk boxes, microwaveable meals), fresh and perishable foods (fruit, vegetables, cheese) and personal toiletries and dry goods (toothpaste, deodorant, underwear, socks, etc.). Student access is granted and monitored by designated school personnel and students are encouraged to bring food home on the weekends for siblings and family members in need.
- Mentoring programs. Semester and full-year mentoring programs are offered at several school locations. Community members are selected and trained to provide support, guidance and friendship to at-risk students at weekly mentoring sessions during the school day.
- Senior Experience program. WE ARE VB provides need-based financial support for seniors requiring summer courses for graduation, and ensures that financial barriers do not interfere with the joy and celebration of senior year by providing funding for yearbooks, graduation announcements, cap and gown, prom, etc.
Emergency assistance programs include:
- School Stipend program. Semester-based stipends to participating schools to empower administrators to meet emergency and out-of-the box needs for individual students such as eyeglasses, field-trip costs, athletic gear, etc.
- Emergency Request Response program. WE ARE VB leverages our relationships in the community to respond to the needs of students and their families who are unexpectedly displaced from their homes or belongings and in immediate need of critical items such as clothing, shoes, school supplies or food.
- Mattress Distribution program. Our unique partnership with Leesa Mattress provides twin and full-sized mattresses to families in need or in transition.
In the past two years, WE ARE VB has grown from our single pilot program at First Colonial High School to programs that support hundreds of students in more than 10 schools in our city.
A word from Debbie Shelton, Vice Principal of First Colonial High School,
“Good afternoon! There is a student whom we did not know about for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Three weeks ago, he stopped by looking for food. Today, I met with him to discuss providing his family with a food basket for Easter and to show him the food pantry. I explained that whenever he’s hungry, he can come down and do some grocery shopping. He asked, “Can I come on Fridays?” I told him that he could come on Fridays, every day….it didn’t matter. He sat there, frozen, and then tears came to his eyes. I explained that we didn’t know about his family for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but as long as he’s here, we have him covered. He continued to sit…frozen…trying to compose himself. I made small talk and indicated that he could return to class. Before he left, he hugged me, put his head on my shoulder and said, “Thank you.” Later this afternoon, he returned because he had been in communication with his mother and she had told him what items to bring home.”