Florence Crittenton Campus Filled with Life and Learning
The Florence Crittenton campus came back to life when school started in August. Our staff and Board of Directors have worked tirelessly together to begin the school year in person and fully activated for FloCrit teen moms and children.
The Florence Crittenton campus came back to life when school started in August. Our staff and Board of Directors have worked tirelessly together to begin the school year in person and fully activated for FloCrit teen moms and children. We continue to follow safety protocol with mask usage and social distancing, and, 100% of our staff are fully vaccinated.
Our teen moms experience a wide range of opportunities while back on campus, including continuing their education through on-site Florence Crittenton High School. Ruth Ocon-Neri, Florence Crittenton High School’s Senior Team Lead and English Language Arts – Spanish Instruction (ELA-S) Resource Teacher, is overjoyed to be back in person. “It has meant a lot for the teachers and myself. It’s meant we can be back with kids again, our students—we missed that.” Our teachers overcame many challenges during remote schooling last year. “It was not easy being online, partly because we couldn’t have that interaction or that relationship with our students,” Ruth adds. “Now, we can have that interaction and relationship and actually see what they’re doing. And, help them through the process of their thinking. So, it’s meant a lot for us to be back in person.” She also notes the importance of our teen moms interacting with one another, and how wonderful it is to hear the halls filled with laughter and chatter between periods. “Students can have more of a social life. That’s huge for us. It’s fun to see the girls come in everyday and really feel like they belong, like we belong, in this building.”
Haseena, a senior and one of FloCrit’s teen moms back on campus, says, “It’s a lot easier for me to do my work. When I was stuck at home, it was just us [me and my children], and we didn’t really have much to do. I had a whole bunch of things I had to come up with or schedule and it was just hard. Now that school’s back in person, it’s a lot easier for me to have a good schedule.” Haseena is engaged in her classes and enjoys interacting with fellow students and her teachers following remote learning last spring. Haseena is eager to finish her last year at Florence Crittenton on campus and begin a career as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or phlebotomist after graduation in the Spring.
In addition to continuing their high school education, teen moms are back to meeting one-on-one with our Student and Family Support Program (SFSP) team, who provide culturally-informed, asset-based case management to our teen moms. Our after-school enrichment activities are also back in full force, including a wide range of programs, such as tax and financial education sessions, volleyball games, and cooking classes. FloCrit continues to have its staff teach important classes that are unique to the FloCrit campus. These include our parenting education class, life skills, and one of our moms’ favorite classes: Art Therapy, led by our Art Therapist and Family Advocate Manager, Donica Snyder.
Teen moms have long appreciated the Art Therapy class here at FloCrit, and it remains a highly anticipated class every year. “I have moms asking everyday how do they get enrolled in the art class,” Donica remarks. “I feel a real excitement and urgency that students want to express a lot of experiences that they haven’t been able to process. The moms who are currently in the class have shown a high level of reflection with very intense prompts—I’ve been very impressed.” Another benefit of the Art Therapy class is the ability for teen moms to work with one another and collaborate. “I’ve also seen a lot of camaraderie,” Donica notes. “It’s easy to see the value in something when you don’t have it for a whole year, and the moms have really taken advantage of the space by being helpful to one another. They are offering their wisdom in not only the art materials, but in relationships and parenting as well. I’m very proud of the community they’re building.”
Donica experienced challenges when approaching the idea of remote learning in an art class, which relies on physical communication, and adapted her virtual classroom to meet the needs of her students. Now that students are back on campus, Donica is thrilled to see her students in the classroom and producing art. “I love the energy of in-person learning, the sensing of people,” Donica comments. “A lot of the communication in the art room from the young moms is non-verbal. It’s felt, it’s seen in their body language, the cadence of their speech. I see it in their artwork. I’m able to be present with these nuances which is how I most effectively build relationships with my students.”
As they pursue their education at the High School and receive services from our SFSP team, our teen moms drop off their children at our Early Childhood Education (ECE) Center. Their children are back to learning and growing in our Center, where they are provided with family-style meals, three age-appropriate outdoor playgrounds, and hours of play-based learning using Teaching Strategies’ Creative Curriculum. Our ECE Center Director, MonaLisa Martinez—a graduate of FloCrit herself—felt relief as moms and children returned to campus. “When we walk into work,” she says, “we hear the sounds that we didn’t hear before. We hear laughing—we even hear the infants crying—those were sounds we didn’t hear, and it was actually really sad. And I feel like it was across the board. It wasn’t just me—everyone shared the same feeling of knowing that when we would walk in, it was just silent. It really brought a lot to light that our world without our children is just not the same.” Every ECE Center classroom includes an outside-facing door, providing a convenient opportunity for FloCrit teen moms to safely drop off their child every morning and connect with the ECE teachers about how their child is doing as everyone adapts to being back on campus.
Dawud, one of Haseena’s children enrolled at the ECE Center, loves being back in school and playing with other children. “I’m learning colors and ABCs in school. I like being at school with my friends again. I like going outside at school. Sometimes we have ABC homework. I know how to write my name—D-A-W-U-D. I learned that at school.”
Mona summarizes the impact of in-person learning: “Honestly, I missed the excitement, the ‘not knowing what’s going to happen today,’” she says. “You don’t realize how much you miss it until you don’t have it.” Our staff, Board, and teen families are proud and grateful to be back on campus safely.