Staff Spotlight: Jessica Rodriguez-Colon
When Jessica Rodriguez-Colon, Case Manager in Valley Youth House’s Truancy Intervention Services program, pulled up to the home of one of the families that she works with, she saw little sets of eyes peeking out the front window, followed by shouts of “Miss Jessica is here!” Jessica has been making School Care Packages for each of the families that she works with and dropping them off on their doorsteps, to ensure she is following proper social distancing.
“I felt it in my heart. I had tears in my eyes.” Jessica said of the emotional moment outside the family’s home. “My clients are scared and I try my best to alleviate their stress.”
The Truancy Intervention Services program serves youth (and their families) that their schools have identified as missing significant amount of school-time during to tardiness and absenteeism. Counselors, like Jessica, ensure that barriers to education are reduced and that youth are getting the quality education that they need. This is important, now more than ever, due to the disruptions due to COVID-19. With the switch to schooling from home, many of the families that the Truancy Intervention Services programs works with do not have the proper resources to continue the learning process at home.
Jessica’s School Care Packages include school supplies, arts and crafts, books, educational packets, information on COVID-19, and resource lists. Many of the families that Jessica works with do not have televisions or computers and internet and therefore are not receiving up-to-the-minute information on COVID-19, so Jessica and her colleagues make sure that they are getting them the information they need to keep their families safe.
“The families are terrified of the unknown and worried about their children’s education. They are afraid their children will get left behind.” said Jessica. It’s extremely difficult to do their schooling from home without basic school supplies. Jessica has been using donations of school supplies for these families and has been coordinating with the children’s teachers and administrators about their schoolwork and any additional enrichment that they can do at home.
For those families that do have computer and internet access, the Truancy Intervention Services program, along with VYH’s other prevention and intervention programs, have gone virtual, providing telehealth alternatives to families. Jessica will drop off the School Care Packages to the families and then connect with them virtually to go through the information, while providing counseling and support.
Topics for the parents include coping mechanisms, keeping structure in the home, and answering questions in regards to COVID-19, such as how to get Unemployment Benefits. All but two of the families that Jessica works with have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and Jessica is helping the families navigate the unknown. For the children, Jessica goes over their schoolwork with them, works on the educational enrichment packages, does arts and crafts, and will read them books via video chat.
Jessica is just one of the many amazing Valley Youth House counselors and therapists that continue to go above and beyond to ensure that youth and families are continuing to get the quality services and support they need during this pandemic.
To learn about how you can support VYH during COVID-19, visit: www.valleyyouthhouse.org/vyh-covid-19-how-you-can-help