“I was walking down the street, picking up my daughter from school, wondering if I’m ever going to have the opportunity to not only help kids, but also to be able to buy my own child shoes to wear, and just at that moment a school official came up to me and said, ‘There is a job in the district that is all about what you do, and I think you need to apply.’ Two weeks later, I had a full time job, beyond my dream job.”
Charlene works in the Folsom Cordova Unified School District as a District Liaison for the Homeless Student Services department. She works full time to eliminate the barriers to education that homeless children face so they can be academically engaged.
“I grew up in poverty so I have great compassion for the working poor and the unemployed. I’ve always tried to give a voice for their children.”
This past year alone Charlene and her team have identified and served 1815 homeless children in the Folsom Cordova Unified School District. To put that in perspective, Charlene started working with newly created Project 680 in 2008, a local grassroots organization to help the 680 homeless children in Rancho Cordova. In five years the number of homeless children has almost tripled.
Homelessness is defined by any child living in motels, transitional housing developments, emergency shelters, and places defined as unfit for living and Charlene and her team put a lot of time and effort in both identifying and supporting these kids. They provide clothing, shoes, hygiene products, books, and do their best to connect these families to resources that will support them.
“We learned about CHPT at a time when our workload was so crazy that we thought, oh my goodness, don’t ask us to do any other thing. But the VISTAs worked with the physicians to do a service project that supplemented our services and they told us that if we needed help with anything to just let them know!”
Charlene’s favorite projects that she has collaborated on were the Read and Grow Health Bookbags project and the summer Aquatics Safety camp project. She remembers fondly how both physicians and VISTAs from CHPT have helped gather hygiene supplies and volunteered at clothing and shoe drives for their organization.
Because of this great mutualistic relationship between our two organizations Charlene says she is happy to take volunteer time to UC Davis Pediatric and Family Medicine interns that come to Rancho Cordova to learn about school health. “I just want them to be aware of how appreciative we are of the health professionals who serve the low income community and who ask questions like, ‘Where are you sleeping at night?’ or ‘Are you getting enough food?’, and ‘Do you have heat and water?’ I want them to also know that there are people and resources like me in their spectrum of care to support them in taking care of their patient’s physical and mental well being.”
Here at CHPT we are always so grateful and appreciative for all the work Charlene and her team does for both CHPT and most importantly the children in Rancho Cordova and Folsom communities. Interns always love talking to her and we hope to keep our strong relationship going for years to come. Thank you Charlene for helping to make this world a healthier place!