The dreary skies of the last week cleared out just in time this Saturday for Rucker Elementary School’s principal to lace up her walking shoes and carry out her mission of making sure all her students know they are loved.
Principal Eileen Puente and group of volunteers and staff from Rucker Elementary School came together for a door-to-door effort to help check in on students who have recently struggled with attendance.
“We want them to know that we are here for them and we want them in school,” she said.
The group split up into teams of three and Puente’s group, which included two University of Houston College of Social Work interns, canvassed a small section of the Meadowbrook neighborhood of Houston’s Southeast side to talk to parents about the importance of creating healthy attendance habits.
Over the past few years, Rucker has seen a steady decline in enrollment as parents choose other educational options for their children. But, according to Puente, Saturday’s walk was also an opportunity to share with those parents, whose children attend non-HISD schools, all that Rucker has to offer.
“We have a lot of great things happening at Rucker, some for the very first time,” Puente said. “We offer a lot of creative arts partnerships and we look forward to connecting with the community to let them know what we have offer.”
Rucker also offers an after-school program through Zenith Learning. For a small monthly fee, students can stay safely at school until 6 p.m., and activities include reading and math tutorials, martial arts, chess, science, robotics, sports, arts & crafts and gardening. The campus also offers and after-school choir and ballet lessons through a partnership with the Alley Theater.
As the group meandered through the neighborhood streets, the conversation turned to the importance of non-academic supports for students and their families. Recently, the staff at Rucker welcomed a full-time nurse, school counselor and wraparound specialist to help students with critical issues that might be a barrier to attendance.
“Our wraparound specialist, nurse and counselor have all helped connect our students with services that they may not have had access to,” she said. “We want to make sure we can connect our families to the resources available to them so they can be successful.”
At the end of the three-hour walk, Puente and her team spoke with two families and the entire cohort visited over 30 homes. The walk provided insight for Puente and her staff about some of the difficulties their students face and talk through concerns one on one.
“We found out somethings about our families that we might not have otherwise known,” she said. “They were able to bring up some medical concerns, some student safety concerns, and other issues that we were able to address with them.”