CMSD Expands Reach of Family Support Specialists


CLEVELAND — Back to school can be a stressful time.

For many families, this puts a strain on their budget that creates challenges far beyond that first day of class.

This year, for the first time, each building in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District will have its own Family Support Specialist.

Expanding Awareness partners with Say Yes Cleveland, which helps students succeed.

Kanika Williams and her sons attempt to navigate life on their own.

“I don’t have any real family here in Cleveland,” Williams said.

But if it’s too much to bear, Williams isn’t afraid to speak up.

“As a parent, you need to be open and willing to share the struggles you’re going through,” Williams said.

Williams, who has a first and eighth grader at AB Hart Elementary in Cleveland, tapped into the help available in our community through the Family Support Specialist at her sons’ school.

“At one point I was transitioning to a new home, I needed help with a security deposit. The Say Yes coordinator here at our school had all the resources we needed. your struggle, the support coordinator will never know,” Williams said.

Deandre Henley connects mothers, fathers and caregivers with social service agencies to help overcome barriers.

“Mental health services, vision, dental services, housing supports, clothing supports,” Henley said.

Although this is Henley’s second year at AB Hart, it will be the first school year that he has counterparts working with students at every school in the district.

“It’s important to provide these resources so they have what they need to be successful throughout their educational journey,” Henley said.

AB Hart students will soon have access to clothing and footwear.

“They’ve got a closet where they’re going to take the kids in and do a little shopping. How cool,” Williams said.

Williams tells News 5 that she hopes the families will take advantage of the help available.

“For food, laundry detergent, dishwasher liquid, just the little things that do a home run,” Williams said.

When things go well at home, Henley said they see the benefits during the school day.

“If you’re not in good mental or physical health, you can’t do well in school and you need all those supports to be able to perform in the classroom,” Henley said.

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