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.

Emergency Rent Assistance

Since the COVID-19 Pandemic hit, community members have asked us how they can help families hit hard by the crisis with emergency rent assistance.

North Thurston Education Foundation works with community partners daily to prevent homelessness. We partner with an organization called Help Us Move In (HUMI). For every dollar we receive in donations toward rent assistance, HUMI will match a dollar. North Thurston Public Schools McKinney Vento staff pre-screen families for this program, and then they are referred to NTEF for funding. Thanks to this program, hundreds of kids and their families don’t have to worry about where they will sleep at night.

Learn more about how you can double your donor dollars by calling NTEF’s Executive Director Mike Jones at (360) 790-6548 or emailing [email protected].

Timberline’s Class of 2002 Alumni Profile Features Our Board President, Blake Knoblauch!

Blake Knoblauch was nine years old when Horizons Elementary principal Gloria Hunter identified him as a leader among his peers and invited him to help her lead assemblies. It was a big deal to a little kid who would become a community leader and the new executive director of Lacey South Sound Chamber.

Horizons Elementary was brand new that year and adopted a unique instruction model that grouped two grade levels in the same classroom. Leaders from around the state visited the campus, and Mrs. Hunter enlisted Blake to give tours. “Superintendents and school board members wanted to see the new model in action, and thanks to Mrs. Hunter, that meant I got to interact with them even as a third-grader,” Blake explains.

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Did You Know?

The 2020 Thurston County homeless census found that 995 individuals experienced homelessness – living unsheltered or in emergency or transitional housing. This is a 24 percent increase over 2019 and is the highest count since the homeless census efforts began in 2006.

Thurston County participates in a statewide annual “Point in Time Count of Homeless Persons” referred to as the “homeless census.” This census helps determine the number of homeless people in the county and its causes and assists in developing a comprehensive strategic response to the issue. School Districts report the number of students (pre-kindergarten through 12th grade) that experience homelessness during the school year to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Last school year, 655 North Thurston Public School students were homeless. 

Through Student Assitance Grants, NTEF can often assist families with housing deposits, rent payments, and other financial assistance to ensure students in the North Thurston School District have adequate and safe housing.

Want to help?
Consider a donation to NTEF to help students and families in the district avoid homelessness. In the past, many of our donors have donated government stimulus checks if they are in a position to do so.

Need Resources?
All students experiencing homelessness have rights to immediate school enrollment, priority in certain preschool programs, free meals at school and the right to obtain information regarding free services and transportation services. For additional information, visit https://www.nthurston.k12.wa.us/homeless.

Stories of Impact

We recently were able to help a family and received this note: 

I want to show my family’s appreciation for the North Thurston Education Foundation’s help when my car broke down, and we were homeless. Getting my kids to school so they didn’t have to think about our living conditions was all that I prayed for, and God answered by sending the wonderful people of North Thurston Education Foundation to help our family. We were able to have heat in the car so the kids weren’t cold during the winter. I could also get the kids to their school performances for orchestra, band and choir. The new clothes helped so much.

Your Foundation has done so much to help our family achieve our children’s education goals during this year. We were already homeless when we lost everything in a hotel fire. You all helped to restore smiles to my children’s faces. I’m truly thankful to God for you all. God bless you all for all your generosity and hard work but most importantly, the love and compassion you showed my family and others in our time of need.

Thank you again so much!  

Here is a note from a family were able to assist with housing deposits: 
Thank you so much for the help with our deposit; it helped me, my wife, and four children get into a home that we could actually call home. It has made a big change for our family, and our children are so grateful not to have to sleep in our SUV, a shed, or someone else’s home.

Thanks to YOU, We are Able to Continue to Support NTPS Students and Families!

Hi Mike,

This is one of my favorite visuals of how NTEF has recently supported The Family & Youth Resource Center.  We had no pants available in our Kids Closet back in November, but thanks to the generosity of NTEF, this need was fulfilled!  Thank you, NTEF. We are so grateful for the continued support!

Jennifer Gould

North Thurston Public Schools, McKinney Vento Student Navigator – Timberline High School

Happy New Year!

Mike Jones 2019 Headshot

I’m Mike Jones, Executive Director of the North Thurston Education Foundation. We are so thankful for all of our donors who have helped support students and families over the last year during COVID-19, which has presented additional challenges for students in the district. We are incredibly proud of the work of the educators and all North Thurston Public Schools’ staff, who have gone above and beyond to support students during this time. We could not do this important work without your support and dedication to our students. Our students and families now – more than ever – need support to remove barriers and enhance opportunities for success.

Thanks for reading our latest news! Contact me for sponsorship opportunities, questions, suggestions, or to share a personal story about NTEF’s impact on your school, family or the community. Thanks for your continued support in removing barriers, enhancing learning, and enriching lives for North Thurston Public Schools’ students.

We Wish You a Safe and Healthy 2021,

Mike Jones, Executive Director

Phone: 360-790-6548

Email: [email protected]

Stories of Impact

 

We recently were able to help a family with their cable bill and received this note: My partner recently lost a job he loved and I’ve taken the full financial responsibility for my family, which was very unexpected. I don’t have any family members or people in my life who are able to help financially and the bills started to pile up. The cable bill is usually one of the less “important” bills but I am obligated to a contract with the company, and the outstanding balance was growing larger. With the help of NTEF, I was able to pay off the balance, which relieved an enormous amount of financial pressure. Angels come in all forms and that day, you were mine. I am so thankful for the help!”

*Before COVID-19, the Foundation did not help families pay cable/internet bills as it fell into the “non-essential” category. However, now that most students are attending school online, cable/internet has moved to an “essential” category, and we help families on a case-by-case basis.