LOS ANGELES (February 6, 2024) – For almost two years, Jayvon had been without a place to call home and often slept in a park. The park was across the street from a Learn4Life high school, which is known for helping young people earn a diploma and get job training.

“I had heard about it, so I just walked in and enrolled,” he recalls. “My counselors immediately made sure that I was fed, clothed, clean, motivated and we always had amazing conversations. Everyone at my school really came through whenever I needed them for all kinds of support.”

High school counselors can be invaluable to students as they navigate their education and prepare for the next phase of their lives, but for students experiencing homelessness or in the foster care system, they can literally be life savers.

Growing up, Jayvon bounced around from house to house between his mom and abusive father, foster care and at times experiencing homelessness. Before he started high school, he had been to more than 30 different schools. No wonder he struggled in school and eventually dropped out.

Shortly before coming to Learn4Life, he learned that a previous “fling” had become pregnant and he knew that he would make a much better parent than the mother. A case worker helped him to go to court to petition for custody, which requires being enrolled in school, taking parenting classes and having a place to live.

Although Jayvon was 22 years old and had aged out of traditional high school, he was able to attend Learn4Life, thanks to its Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) partnerships and programs. WIOA services are available for youth 14-24 who face barriers to employment. So, while earning his high school diploma, WIOA programs helped him prepare a resume, tackle interviews, find housing and land a job.

Learn4Life creates a personalized education program for every student by identifying their strengths and areas that require extra tutoring. Students have a flexible schedule, so they don’t sit in class all day and can fit school around work, taking care of little ones, and, in Jayvon’s case, court-required parenting classes.

For Jayvon, it was the school counselors at Learn4Life who helped him turn around his life. School Counseling Week in February pays tribute to these essential workers in our educational system.

School counselors recognize that homelessness and displacement may greatly affect the whole child, encompassing mental, physical, social/emotional and academic development. They act as liaisons with the school and community partners to connect students and their families with wraparound services.

“We strive to remove barriers to academic success. Students can’t learn if they are hungry and don’t know where they will sleep that night,” said Jaspreet Kaur, who coordinates 80 counselors at Learn4Life. “Unfortunately, only half of U.S. states mandate school counselors, and in California the counselor-to-pupil ratio is above 1:500. Our schools have two to three times the number of school counselors as the average high school in this state.”

She credits a holistic, team approach with teachers, school counselors, tutors and other staff for helping students like Jayvon to get a chance to earn a diploma, get job and see a future beyond their current living situation. “We gave Jayvon something he had not had for most of his life — belonging, respect and acceptance.”

Jayvon is grateful for everyone who helped him – even Frederick the security guard in the front lobby. “He always made sure I had a ride and went the extra mile. He even helped me get a security job and would always make sure I was good. He would pray for me and let me know I was cared for,” he said.

In just 18 months, Jayvon was able to catch up on credits and graduate, and he’ll be a speaker at the school’s graduation ceremony in May. He has a job, an apartment and is taking all the necessary steps to earn custody of his baby girl.

“This school really cares for their students. Everybody at this school is respectful, listens, it feels like they care. It’s just totally different…my school is like my family,” he said. “I never openly talked about my situation, but they figured it out and immediately started helping. They gave me food, jackets in the winter, transportation to get to school and just really went above and beyond. I love this school a lot. I’d recommend Learn4Life to everyone.”

Written By:
Ann Abajian
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