By Luis Rivera, Arm In Arm Community Navigator
I was introduced to Anita through our All Kids Thrive program when she was in kindergarten at the Carol Robbins School. Anita had been missing a lot of school—3 days one week, a week the next—and the school was having difficulty connecting and communicating with Anita’s mom Natalia, so they reached out to ask me to help. It was particularly challenging because Natalia was really hard to reach, and sometimes even hard to find. For most of the families I worked with, the relationship was cultivated with the parents, not the children, but I couldn’t do this with Natalia, so I had to work with Anita, who was extremely shy and quiet. It took a long time, basically two full semesters, but what I found out during this time was that Anita’s mom Natalia was really struggling herself. She had mental health issues, was suffering from previous trauma, and struggled to hold down a job, which led to she and Anita never having a steady home. But I could see that Natalia was really trying, she just needed help navigating through…. So Arm In Arm helped her. We connected her with WomanSpace, as well as with local families who could help Anita get to and from school each day. She began to do better, and we continued to stay with her, helping with food, housing, and other resources. The pivotal moment though, really came for me at the end of the third semester that we had been working with Anita. I was reviewing attendance data with the school Vice Principal and we were looking back at Anita’s participation and she had done amazing. Anita had not missed a day the entire semester! The Vice Principal was so amazed that she ran down to the Principal’s office to show her. That was when it really hit me and I thought, ‘this is real, we are really making a difference here.’ This mom is dealing with so many issues, but we were able to get her stable enough that her daughter was now thriving. It’s a really beautiful thing.
Anita is still thriving, and hasn’t missed a day of school. She is happy, outgoing, and so proud of her mom. She is truly a shining star. They are in a studio apartment now, and even though Anita is now in another school, we continue to work with them, providing them with food and clothing when needed, as well as with support and trust.