Some students balance school, work to provide financially for family

Amber Marten, Editor

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  ALICE, or Asset Limited, Income, Constrained, Employed, is a program run by United Way Wisconsin, which helps financially struggling families get back on track. According to United Way of Wisconsin, 55,147 households in Marathon county are part of this program. Ten percent of those households are in poverty, 25 percent are in the ALICE program, and 65 percent are Above ALICE Threshold, which means the households in that percentage are now able to sustain themselves without the assistance of the ALICE program.

  But within some of those 35 percent of households that are not above the ALICE Threshold, there are kids who are just trying to be an actual kid. But some are forced to grow up fast, where they have to find a job that will help their family pay for some of the necessities of a household.

  “I think it is growing to be a bigger need in our community,” said D.C. Everest Social Worker Mrs. Erin Jacobson. “As our poverty levels increase, we see more students having to access getting jobs to try and support themselves and also contribute back to the family.”

  Mrs. Jacobson said this issue is more common, and more serious that people think. Having this sort of stress on a student can become very overwhelming for them, and it can make it harder for that student to actually concentrate on anything else.

  “It is one thing to work a job when you are in high school, gain work experience, and have a little bit of money in your pocket, and making community connections,” said Mrs. Jacobson. “But when [certain] students are required to provide for their family financially, it puts so much more pressure on the students.”

  Along with the stress and pressure of a students work and school life, some students have to incorporate the stress of financially providing for their families. And all the stress that builds up, can cause some major damage to a student’s mental health.

  “This first thing is, to talk with students about balance,” said D.C. Everest school counselor Mrs. Jodi Devine Schwantes.

  There are many roles that every student has, financially struggling or not, that each student has to keep up with. Some of those roles include: school, work, clubs or activities,  and friends and family. And Mrs. Devine Schwantes said every student has to find a balance between all of those roles in order to keep their life less stressful.

  “When those things get out of balance, and if they are out of balance because a student is working thirty hours a week, that can be a tremendous burden or barrier,” said Mrs. Devine Schwantes.

  Mrs. Jacobson said a student’s attendance in school can be greatly affected by the amount of work hours a student gets from their job. If a student has to work odd hours, or even late hours into the night, some students will be too tired to show up early in the morning for school, which will also affect their academics.

  “Within Student Services and Administration, everyone is very open to have that conversation of trying to understand their family dynamics and the pressure that is put on the student,” said Mrs. Jacobson. “We then try to accommodate the best that we can. However, there are still requirements that every student has to meet while they are here.”

  Mrs. Jacobson said she collaborates with the D.C. Everest Guidance Department to ensure that a student can find a way to still attend school, or graduate, while still keeping up with their duties outside of school.

  “We have a weekly meeting, when we are touching base, confidentially, about student issues, and how she [Mrs. Jacobson]  is working with them and how we are working with them,” said Mrs. Devine Schwantes.

  Mrs. Devine Schwantes said sometimes a guidance counselor will meet with Mrs. Jacobson and the student who is in need just to either check in or discuss some of the issues that a student may have with their families financial issues. And if a student feels that a schedule change will be helpful for them, if they are experiencing extreme financial issues, the counselors and Mrs. Jacobson will do what they can, and then decide where to go from there.

  “The Counselors and I work hand in hand on how to support that student the best,” said Mrs. Jacobson. “The community referrals goes back to, weather it’s me or the counselor, how do we get this student connected to other services.”

  Mrs. Jacobson said there are times where there are no services that can be provided for a family or a student because of certain issues that the family may face. But both will always do what they can to help the student with whatever they need.

  Depending on the need a family is asking for, multiple programs are available in the community.

“We have a ton of community resources in our community, it is just finding what resource is the best,” said Mrs. Jacobson. “It is not only directly linking the student there, but it is directly linking the family there as well. There are a ton of food programs, a lot of housing programs in our community, too.”

  Some more examples of community resources include housing assistance, which helps lower some rental amounts, vehicle assistance, which can help find an affordable car or even help repair a car that the family has already, and support and mental health assistance.

  “It is just having the conversation with the student and the family about what is needed, and what is the priority,” said Mrs. Jacobson. “We can’t help with everything, but if we can help with one, it means one less that they have to pay for, or that they might have that stress of. 

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