2018 Year-in-Review

The SchoolHouse Connection board and staff at a board retreat in Washington, DC. 

From birth to higher education, from policy to practice, SchoolHouse Connection took major strides to improve educational and life outcomes for children and youth experiencing homelessness in 2018.  

Looking back, we’re reminded of the power of partnerships, and of keeping a sharp focus on our mission: overcoming homelessness through education.

Below, you’ll find our Top 5 Accomplishments of 2018, as well as two additional lists:

We hope that in reading these lists, you’ll be reminded of important achievements, discover new resources, and learn more about how we can work together in 2019 to help children, youth, and families have stronger futures.

Your support makes our work possible. We therefore invite you to be part of 2019’s accomplishments through a donation to SchoolHouse Connection.

Wishing you a Happy New Year!
The SchoolHouse Connection Team

Donate to SHC

Top 5 Overall Accomplishments

#1 Raising Awareness, Increasing Support

#2 Providing Timely, Responsive, and Practical Help

#3 Advancing National and State Policy Reform

#4 Building Connections Between Early Care, Education, and Homeless and Housing Services

#5 Integrating Young People into All Areas of Our Work

Top 5 by the Statistics

Top 5 Resources

At SchoolHouse Connection, we provide many tools to help early care and education professionals implement law and policy. Here are some of our most popular resources:

  1. McKinney-Vento Act: Two-page Summary
  2. Sample Form Letter to Determine the Independent Student Status of Unaccompanied Homeless Youth
  3. Quick Guide for Counseling Staff Working with Students Experiencing Homelessness
  4. State Laws to Support Youth Experiencing Homelessness
  5. The New FAFSA is Out on October 1: Three Things You Can Do to Help Homeless and Foster Youth

Click here to access all of our resources.

SchoolHouse Connection always posts really informative articles and always has cool things going on.
— Dave Dorvilier | LICSW Program Director, YouthHarbors

Top 5 Webinars

We conduct webinars featuring expert national, state, and local presenters. Here are the five most-viewed and attended webinars:

  1. Special Education, Homelessness and Foster Care
  2. Child Care for Families Experiencing Homelessness: Lessons Learned and the Road Ahead
  3. Improving High School Graduation Rates for Students Experiencing Homelessness
  4. School Counseling Staff and Students Experiencing Homelessness: Tips and Strategies to Get to Graduation
  5. All the Facts About the Homeless Children and Youth Act 

Click here to access all our archived webinars, organized by category.

Top 5 Q&A

At SchoolHouse Connection, we receive many questions from educators, service providers, and the public about the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness. This year, at the request of multiple educators and providers, we have turned this Q&A feature into a printable compendium of legal interpretations and best practices, organized by subject categories.

Top 5 Guest Perspectives

We gain invaluable insights from school district liaisons, state coordinators, service providers and young people. Here are the most viewed essays:

  1. Homelessness: They Just Don’t Get It – By Destiny Dickerson, SHC Scholar, majoring in Psychology in San Diego State University.
  2. Not on the List: How HUD Homeless Policy Leaves Children Behind – By Jani Koester, President of the Dane County WI Homeless Services Consortium Board of Directors, Resource Teacher with Madison Metropolitan School District’s Transition Education Program
  3. Want to Help Students Experiencing Homelessness Go to College? Take Them There. – By Kylee Fuhr, District Homeless Liaison, St. Lucie Public Schools, Florida
  4. Dorm Room Dreamz: Taking Action to Address College Homelessness – By Brandy S. Gros M.A., Founder/CEO, Dorm Room Dreamz L3C
  5. Why Career and Technical Education Can be a Perfect Fit for Students Experiencing Homelessness – By DJ QuirinMa, Federal Programs Data Analyst; Christy Hendricks, Data Control Specialist for CTE; and Heather Denny, State Coordinator for Homeless Education; Montana Office of Public Instruction.
“I did not sleep in a tent, or on a park bench, but I was still homeless. There are many students and people who are living just like me and deserve to be validated in their homeless status. We have already lost so much. We deserve to be recognized.”
— Destiny Dickerson | Psychology Major at San Diego State University
“I was astonished to learn that we had 106 McKinney-Vento seniors registered, but we had never arranged a tour of our local institute of higher education, Indian River State College. I knew I had to figure out a way to get these students interested in college and aware of the benefits of pursuing their undergraduate education…”
— Kylee Fuhr | District Homeless Liaison, St. Lucie Public Schools, Florida

Top 5 Newsletters

We provide timely information on federal and state policy, new resources, research, and local and state guest perspectives on innovative practices and programs. Here are the newsletters that were read the most:

  1. Birth Certificates & IDs for Homeless Minors; June Webinars
  2. We would like you to meet…
  3. Breaking News: Action Needed by April 13
  4. SHC is Hiring; 2018 Calendar; Webinar on Native American Students
  5. State Policies on Homelessness

Bonus: Meet Lily: Sesame Street Launches National Initiative on Family Homelessness

Check out all of our newsletters here.

Top 5 Research Posts

2017 brought new insights on homelessness from research. Here are some of the most impactful and important studies:

  1. New Research Reinforces Connections Among Homelessness, Childhood, and Education
  2. Youth Homelessness and Higher Education: An Analysis of FAFSA Data
  3. Youth Homelessness is Family Homelessness
  4. Higher Education Matters: Three New Studies
  5. Risk and Resilience: Differences in Risk Factors and Health Outcomes Between Homeless and Non-Homeless Students in 2017 YRBS Data

Check out all of our research here.

Top 5 Events

2018 was one for the books – we had so many cool things going on, here’s the top 5:

  1. The Launch of Education Leads Home Campaign
  2. Sesame Street 
  3. Youth Summit in Washington DC
  4. Homeless Children & Youth Act Hearing
  5. National Network for Youth Education Track

#1 Education Leads Home

We launched the Education Leads Home campaign at SXSW EDU 2018 in Austin, Texas. Education Leads Home is the only national campaign focused on closing educational achievement and attainment gaps for homeless students. The goals are:

  • By 2026, young children experiencing homelessness will participate in quality early childhood programs at the same rate as their housed peers.
  • A 90% high school graduation rate for homeless students by 2030.
  • A 60% post-secondary attainment rate for homeless students by 2034.

This campaign is made possible by our generous sponsors: Deutsche Bank, Raikes Foundation, Youth Hope Foundation, and The California Wellness Foundation.

Noteworthy Accomplishments:

  1. Launched campaign at SXSW EDU in March 2018
  2. Presented at a panel at SXSW EDU – The Invisible Million: Homeless Students in the U.S.
  3. Launched State Partnerships grant program
  4. Completed the first national analysis of 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) data and presented it, with policy and practice recommendations, at the 2018 APPAM conference in Washington, DC.

4 Education Leads Home conferences already scheduled in 2019.

– SXSW EDU 2019
– MENTOR 2019
– NHCH 2019
– ELECT 2019


#2 Sesame Street

Sesame Street Workshop launched a national initiative on family homelessness to bring awareness and support to young children and their parents who are homeless, and those who serve them, including early childhood programs, schools, and service providers. Lily, a sweet and resilient 7-year-old muppet whose family experienced homelessness, is featured throughout the new resources, which include a storybook, videos, activities, and materials for providers.

Sesame Street in Communities hosted an interactive conversation on Thursday, December 13, with a panel of experts to raise nationwide awareness about homelessness, its effects on children, and ways providers can help. Barbara Duffield was one of the panelists.

#3 Youth Summit in Washington DC

At the 2018 SchoolHouse Connection DC Summit, SchoolHouse Connection’s Young Leaders shared their wisdom, insights, and experiences with congressional and U.S. Department of Education policymakers in Washington DC. The youth traveled from Alaska, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Washington state. All of the young people have experienced, or are experiencing homelessness, have graduated from high school and are either in college or recently completed college.

#4 House Hearing on the Homeless Children & Youth Act

On June 6, the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance held a hearing to review the Homeless Children and Youth Act (H.R. 1511).

Witnesses included:

  • Barbara Duffield, Executive Director, SchoolHouse Connection
  • Kat Lilley, Deputy Executive Director, Family Promise of Colorado Springs
  • Millie Rounsville, Chief Executive Officer, Northwest Wisconsin Community Services Agency Inc. of Superior, WI
  • Steve Berg, Vice President of Programs and Policy, National Alliance to End Homelessness

A key topic of the hearing was how the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) definition of homelessness creates barriers to assisting children, youth, and families who experience homelessness.

#5 National Network for Youth Education Track

We co-convened an education track at the National Network for Youth’s fifth annual National Summit on Youth Homelessness, March 19-20, in Washington DC. The sessions were designed to bridge policy and practice by featuring innovative practices and strategies with expert panelists. Topics include:

  • Getting to Graduation: Dropout Prevention and Re-engagement
  • Post-Secondary Education: Practical Strategies to Promote Access and Success
  • A Two-Generation Approach: Support for Young Parents and Their Children

Youth Leadership & Scholarship Program

At SchoolHouse Connection, we believe that young people are the experts on their experiences, needs and strengths. We are also proud to offer a scholarship program. The program provides scholarships to youth who have experienced homelessness to ensure their completion of a post-secondary education program; builds a stable peer and adult support network; and offers young people meaningful opportunities to engage in advocacy.

Types of assistance provided to our young leaders include food, clothes, housing, books, beds, mental health care, medical care, legal help, tax help, transportation, job support, pillows, calculators, computers, GRE fees, grad school applications, and tuition.

The biggest impact SchoolHouse Connection had on me is making me realize that I’m not alone in the world with my story. When I first became a part of SchoolHouse Connection, I got to meet other people who had very similar stories to mine and some of them are way more difficult than I ever experienced and it humbled me as a person. It had made me grateful for everything I’ve been through. It honestly made me who I was because it made me realize that the stuff I’ve been through made me who I was, and that I could be successful. And the people I got to meet through SchoolHouse Connection, it was very humbling, all of it.
— Jamie Warren, SHC Young Leader

Top 5 SHC Staff Highlights

1) My heart was stolen by a green-eyed, purple-nosed, pink-skinned muppet named Lily, who communicates hope and healing to children and families experiencing homelessness. Technically, the launch of the Sesame Street initiative on family homelessness was the culmination of seven years of my relationship with Sesame Workshop, an organization for which my respect is boundless. But it felt like a full circle moment for my entire life, personally and professionally, from my own childhood to the present day. 2) The Education Leads Home (ELH) campaign had its debut as the opening event for SXSW EDU, the trend-setting national education conference. With our partners from Civic Enterprises, ICPH, and America’s Promise Alliance, we kicked off a national campaign to build awareness and spark action toward three ambitious but attainable education goals, one for each stage of development. The image etched in my mind is that of our SHC scholars and peer leaders on stage, the ELH logo behind them, a cheering crowd in front of them, and in between, nothing but pride and joy and triumph. Those young people gave us a clear call to action and a blueprint for the future. 3) Congressional hearings are not known to be riveting events. But the June 6 hearing on the Homeless Children and Youth Act (HCYA) was a remarkable occasion. Voices that are typically drowned out were front and center: the voice of parents, the voice of providers. I was honored to testify next to Kat Liley and Millie Rounsville, who spoke truth to power in their testimonies and in their unflinchingly honest responses to Members of Congress. The clock ran out before HCYA could get to the House floor this year, but the hearing’s honest exposition of what homelessness looks like for children, youth, and families – and its connection to adult homelessness – is now part of the legislative record and will build momentum moving forward. 4) Thirteen young leaders, four peer leaders, one family. This year’s SHC Youth Leadership Summit brought together young leaders who had not seen each other – or us – for almost two years. We spent three powerful days reconnecting, deepening our relationships, and educating policymakers on homelessness and education. For me, the phrase “permanent connection” is embodied by our YLS young leaders – the healing and strength that come from knowing that there are people you can count on, always, people who will meet new challenges with you as you transition into adulthood, and throughout adulthood. Our young leaders continue to teach me, and to inspire me. I may never master Snapchat, but I am awed by the power of peer support and the lasting love of our YLS family. 5) SchoolHouse Connection added two team members this year, tremendously increasing our capacity and impact. I’m extremely proud of how our SHC staff has worked hard to cross-pollinate among program areas. I recall a recent staff meeting where I watched this interaction take place: state policy informing federal policy (and vice versa); early childhood informing higher education (and vice versa); K-12 informing early care and higher (and vice versa); youth homelessness informing family homelessness (and vice versa). I realized how much progress we’ve made in integrating our respective areas into a unified, coordinated approach. It may be cliché to say “it’s all connected,” but if we can achieve this integration internally, we stand a much better chance of effecting it externally.
— Barbara | Executive Director
1) Meeting advocates from around the country as I traveled to New Jersey, Indiana Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas and Utah to work on state policy changes to support youth experiencing homelessness. 2) Presenting with a panel of our Young Leaders at the national conference of the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness in New York City. It’s always an honor to share the mike with our young people and listen to their advice and experiences! 3) Celebrating accomplishments, from record federal funding for McKinney-Vento to the passage of Tennessee’s HB 2303, with SchoolHouse Connection’s smart and committed team. 4) Meeting SchoolHouse Connection’s first cohort of scholars. Their energy, intelligence and determination were beautiful to witness and share. 5) Watching SchoolHouse Connection approach its second birthday with a growing Board, full staff, clean audit, and more young people than ever actively co-leading our work.
— Patricia | Director of Program Advancement & Legal Affairs
1) Seeing the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (ECLKC) training modules on homelessness released and the wonderful reception they received from the field. 2) Monthly meetings with colleagues from Head Start Collaboration, Head Start and Child Care National Centers for our Learning Community on Homelessness. What a terrific and rich network. I always learn so much. 3) Getting to know many creative and committed early childhood and housing providers in North Carolina through our grant work with the NC Division of Child Development and Early Education. We are making great progress toward our goal of outreaching to families to increase access to quality child care. It has been a learning experiencing working with the Balance of State structure which covers a vast and primarily rural area of the state. 4) Working with the SchoolHouse Connection team is a true blessing. What authentic and gifted colleagues. SchoolHouse Connection is off to an amazing start and I look forward to exploring future efforts together with my team. What a crew! 5) Seeing Big Bird and all of his friends on Sesame Street ensure that the voices of babies and young children are included in the discussion about homelessness at tables across our nation.
— Grace | Director of Early Childhood Initiatives
1) The ability to convey the message of homelessness and education into various formats that are digestible to liaisons, service providers, and the general public. 2) Was present at the launch of Education Leads Home campaign at SXSW EDU in Austin, Texas. I got to witness months of hard work from four organizations come to fruition. 3) Had the opportunity to witness the power of youth voice as they share their stories with policymakers in Washington DC. 4) Got to meet 10 new scholars to SHC in Austin, Texas where they were presented with their scholarships. Their resilience and sense of maturity from having gone through so much at such a young age inspired me to do more for them. 5) Always being in the front lines of communications for SHC – from the launch of Sesame Street in Communities’ new childhood homelessness materials and Education Leads Home, to creating various content and hosting webinars.
— Leconte | Communications Manager
1) Convening at The Reading High School and Alvernia University – First time presenting and was encouraged to have learned so much since joining the team and to see changes implemented on a more local level. 2) #RealCollege conference – Got to see the amazing work people from all around the country are doing to support students experiencing homelessness. 3) Meeting our young leaders – This reminded me and reaffirmed why I work in higher education. They are such a strong, inspiring, and motivated group of individuals and it was an honor to meet them and hear their stories on the Hill. 4) Being an advocate – Responded to multiple student requests and questions about FAFSA verification statuses. 5) Conversations across the country – Having over 60 conversations with those helping and supporting students experiencing homelessness and creating implementation tools/tip sheets.
— Jillian | Program Manager, Higher Education
1) Through blood, sweat, and a few tears, I drafted an 18-page report on the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey results from 17 states–revealing the staggering prevalence of youth homelessness and the disproportionate health and mental health risks of youth experiencing homelessness. 2) I co-presented our research findings with young adult leader Elaine Williams in front of a roomful of discerning academics at the annual APPAM conference and brought much-needed real-life context to the sobering statistics. 3) We invited applications for our inaugural cohort of State Partnerships on Student Homelessness Project participants. Hawaii, Oregon, Nevada, Kentucky, Washington, and California, will launch their proposals at the beginning of 2019. 4) I helped draft a series of documents to support homeless assistance providers, liaisons, the general public, parents, and educators effectively leverage the new Sesame Street in Communities content on child homelessness. 5) I helped position ELH to get the word out about our work in 2019 by securing admission to present at 4 upcoming conferences.
— Katie | Program Manager, Education Leads Home