North Thurston Public School Profile: Leslie Van Leishout: Director of Student Support, NTPS

We recently talked with Leslie Van Leishout, Director of Student Support at NTPS, to learn more about her involvement with NTEF and how to best support students and families during this time. Here is our conversation below!

NTEF: How did you first become involved with NTEF?
Leslie: Before becoming the Director of Student Support six years ago, I was a teacher in the school system. In fact, I’ve been teaching at NTPS since 1998. I was the lucky recipient of a Learning Improvement Grant and used the grant for a really great anti-bullying campaign and training for students in my theatre class.

NTEF: Over the last year, during COVID-19, how have the needs of students and families in the district changed?
Leslie: A little over a year ago, we centralized our student support center to one location, our current Family & Youth Resource Center. It made it easier for families who were previously accessing resources from different schools and locations. Before COVID-19, we were seeing about 10 families a week come through. Since COVID-19, we have 75-100 families come through our drive-up center each week for resources. We are seeing people who have never required help before needing assistance due to loss of income and major life changes. It’s clear some people are hesitant to seek help, but we’re finding that they are more likely to access what they need from the school system instead of turning to state agencies or other organizations. We’re able to provide a supportive and accepting environment for students and their families and could not provide as many supplies as we do without the help of NTEF.

NTEF: How do you think the community can best support the efforts of NTEF?
Leslie: I hope we can increase awareness and let people know the FYRC Center exists and can be accessed. (*For assistance, families accessing support must have a student registered in the NTPS district.)  We are always accepting donations, and our Center is open on Tuesdays from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.for donations. If someone wants to donate but isn’t able to make it at that time, they can contact us to set up an appointment for drop-off. Donating to 501c3 organizations like NTEF is also a great way to help because the funds go directly to meet a significant need in our community.

NTEF: What are some of the most critical needs at the moment?
Leslie: We always need supplies like paper towels, toilet paper, baby wipes, diapers and laundry detergent and laundry pods. While we currently aren’t accepting used clothing, we accept new clothing still in its package and always need Youth L and XL (16-18-year-old) sweatpants and sweatshirts as well as undergarments. You can always check our website for a list of our current needs.