WHEN WE FIRST MET MICAH* at our Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® program in the summer of 2015, he was a rising fourth grader at D.H. Stanton Elementary School. Micah was hard to miss. He had a way of lighting up a room with just his smile. His intellectual curiosity inspired the tutors who worked with him.
But at home, Micah experienced some serious challenges. His mother, La ‘Tasha, was suffering from significant health challenges that threatened them with homelessness.
One weeknight in July, Micah’s mom attended one of our weekly meetings for parents of Freedom Schools scholars. There, La ‘Tasha learned about the other services available at Emmaus House. And when our team realized the crisis La ‘Tasha and Micah faced, we invited them to become one of the first families to enroll in our Peoplestown Family Initiative (PFI). PFI is a new case management program that seeks to help families to overcome the barriers that often lead to poverty.
La ‘Tasha embodies all that we admire about the strength of a mother’s love. That love compels her to never give up as she works to care for Micah. Still, she found herself struggling to help her son with the newer approaches to reading and math, now taught at D.H. Stanton, and schools across the state. And she was not the only parent to struggle in this way. More and more parents in Peoplestown communicated similar challenges.
Emmaus House responded by launching Parent Power! (formerly called Homework Relief Bootcamp) Through a partnership with Literacy Action, we began teaching parents how to help their children with their reading. We also taught them tools and strategies so they could help with other subjects as well.
By implementing La ‘Tasha’s new skills, Micah caught up in grade-level reading, regaining 19 months of instructional level in just 16 weeks!
*The real names of our clients have been changed to respect their privacy.
As our relationship with La ‘Tasha grew, we learned that she and Micah were about to lose their home. The owner of the apartment building they lived in had stopped taking Section 8 subsidies.
That’s when our team sprang into action. We found another property in the final phases of construction that would keep La ‘Tasha and Micah in safe, affordable housing.
However, in an all-too-common turn of events, the developer halted construction just days before La ‘Tasha and Micah were to move in.
Upon learning the news, Adam, our director of social services, went directly to the developer's office where he refused to leave until they resolved the situation. And under threat of arrest, Adam’s advocacy went all the way to the owner of the company in Nashville.
Within days, the developer completed the unit, and La ‘Tasha and Micah had a beautiful new home.
If Micah had simply attended the CDF Freedom Schools program for six weeks one summer and gone home, he and his mother could have ended up homeless. But because of our deep commitment to embracing the whole family, we met La ‘Tasha.
A two-generation approach allowed us to harness the power of community, education, hope and love so that La ‘Tasha and Micah can work toward a better life for themselves. Now, this remarkable family is stronger and more stable than ever.