2021 Year-in-Review

A Message from Your SchoolHouse Connection Team

As the year comes to a close, we are pleased to share our 2021 Year-in-Review, a multi-media retrospective of our collective impact. You can watch the moment that the American Rescue Plan Act Homeless Children and Youth Fund was born, listen to words of wisdom from homeless liaisons, get inspiration from young people, and find out which SHC resources were the most accessed.

While we are proud of what we achieved, our accomplishments are not ours alone — they also belong to our dedicated network of educators, service providers, youth, and families; our passionate coalition partners, and our steadfast and supportive funders.

May you find hope and inspiration in this year’s top accomplishments, and may you remember old favorites (or discover new ones) in our end-of-the-year “Top Five Lists.”

We are grateful for your partnership, and wish you a peaceful holiday season and joyous new year.

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ARP-HCY is eight times the annual appropriation for the McKinney-Vento Act’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program, more than the previous ten years of EHCY funding combined.
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Chandler S.

“The resources provided through ARP are the resources I needed when I was experiencing homelessness and I am confident that these resources will be life-changing for students like me.” SHC Scholar Blog on the U.S. Department of Education website

Top Federal Advocacy Accomplishment

SHC led advocacy for the American Rescue Plan Act Homeless Children and Youth funds (ARP-HCY): we conducted research demonstrating the need for dedicated funding, worked closely with legislators, and mobilized grassroots support. ARP-HCY is eight times the annual appropriation for the McKinney-Vento Act’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program, more than the previous ten years of EHCY funding combined, and the single largest investment in child and youth homelessness in the nation’s history. The unprecedented amount and flexibility of funding will allow schools to increase their capacity to identify, re-engage, and support children and youth experiencing homelessness at a time of growing need.

Watch the moment it happened! U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) makes history with her bipartisan amendment to support homeless children and youth in the American Rescue Plan Act.

Top State Policy Advocacy Accomplishments

14 state policy reforms that will make a difference for 88,224 homeless youth in 11 states.

Our success rate in achieving proposed policy changes exceeded 80 percent, with highlights including:

  • New laws in Nevada and North Dakota to help unaccompanied youth access health care at the height of a pandemic.
  • $4.4 million in Oregon for housing programs for unaccompanied youth, including $2.4 million for host homes.
  • Groundbreaking changes to school discipline policies in Nevada to keep homeless and foster students in school.
  • New laws in Montana and Maine that facilitate high school graduation for students experiencing homelessness, foster care, juvenile justice involvement, and other students with disrupted education.
“Without the help of Patricia Julianelle and her team at SchoolHouse Connection, North Dakota would not have passed legislation this year to allow unaccompanied youth to gain access to their own vital records and have access to health care. The youth who led the project came up with the challenges that they wanted to address, and Patricia and our local team worked together to make it happen, alongside the youth. SchoolHouse Connection gets it. They have the expertise to help youth-led projects go from a good listening session to actions that change the lives of future generations of homeless youth!”
— Mark Heinert, Assistant Executive Director, Youthworks ND

Top K-12 Education Accomplishment

Helping state and local educational agencies in all 50 states utilize the $800 million in American Rescue Plan Act Homeless Children and Youth (ARP-HCY) funds.

  • Within five days of the bill’s passage, we convened state education agency coordinators for the education of homeless children and youth to help solicit practitioner views on the administration of funds.
  • We quickly created four practical tools, and two multi-part series of Q&A webinars featuring


19% Increase

SHC helped increase the identification of students experiencing homelessness by 19 percent among Los Angeles County school districts. Following our convening in Los Angeles, 43 LEAs submitted specific action plans, resulting in a cumulative 19 percent increase in identified students experiencing homelessness over one school year. This contrasts sharply with the national trend over the same time period, during which LEAs nationally identified 28 percent fewer students experiencing homelessness.

Top Early Childhood Accomplishment

Developed an app to increase the enrollment of children experiencing homelessness in six states’ Head Start programs.

SchoolHouse Connection and the National Head Start Association developed an app for K-12 homeless education liaisons to instantly and directly provide local Head Start programs with information to help enroll young children experiencing homelessness. To date, six states and seven local educational agencies are piloting the app. Based on estimates of homelessness among children under age six in those states, as many as 209,182 children experiencing homelessness, and their parents, stand to benefit from the comprehensive services Head Start uniquely provides to children and parents.

We are bringing more states to pilot in the next few months of the new year and we hope to launch nationally by the end of 2022!

Top Higher Education Accomplishment

Helped unaccompanied homeless youth access financial aid to pursue postsecondary dreams and achieve economic independence.

SHC Participated in 12 Higher Education Trainings/Conferences

Partnership Spotlight

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We’re excited to partner with John Burton Advocates for Youth on a #HigherEdEquityChallenge, the first ever financial aid application completion initiative for homeless students in the country. FAFSA completion is a critical component of college access, retention, and success for youth experiencing homelessness. A focused effort to increase FAFSA completion is particularly important in light of the drop in enrollment in postsecondary education due to the pandemic, and in advance of the hard-fought changes to the FAFSA for homeless youth that will go into effect in 2023-2024. We hope to gain insights from the #HigherEdEquityChallenge that can be replicated in other states and nationally.

Jillian Sitjar, Senior Higher Education Program Manager at SchoolHouse Connection (second from left), presented at an event hosted by Berks County Intermediate on national best practices for supporting college students experiencing homelessness at West Chester University, PA.

COVID-19 Recovery

SHC continues to provide timely and effective responses to the needs of schools, communities, and youth during the pandemic. We documented barriers faced by unaccompanied youth in accessing COVID-19 vaccines and testing because they are not in the physical custody of a parent who can provide consent, which is required in many states. We shared information about these barriers with the CDC, and as a result, the CDC linked to SHC’s summary of state minor consent laws on webpage. That summary has been viewed 49,601 times this year, more than any other page on our website.

Education Leads Home 2022

in Austin, Texas on March 7-8, 2022. ELH2022 is a first-of-its-kind, two-day intersectional event that will highlight proven practices from across the country and bring stakeholders together for facilitated action-planning.
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Education Leads Home

SHC supported twelve state teams to make measurable progress for children and youth experiencing homelessness in early childhood education, K-12 education, and higher education through our “Education Leads Home” Community of Practice. Read our 2020-2021 State Initiatives on Student Homelessness Progress-to-Date Summary to learn more about what the state teams accomplished.

Youth Leadership

Our young people are one step closer to reaching their goals:

  • Thirteen of our scholars graduated in 2021 with either a high school or post-secondary degree
  • 100% of our scholars:
    • showed an increase in financial literacy in 2021
    • are engaged in their communities in a meaningful way
    • have stable housing, reliable health care, mental health care, and food security

SHC’s young people took over more leadership roles than ever in all areas of our work, including:

SchoolHouse Connection Scholars

“I became a Scholar in 2018 and have absolutely loved my interactions with the organization ever since. For a lot of organizations I’ve encountered, the engagement ended shortly after the scholarship was awarded. Yet the award was the start of my relationship with SHC, not the end. They have provided a platform for me to speak with countless educators and counselors, and the organization remains committed to crucial advocacy efforts. I will forever be appreciative of SHC.”
— Lorinda | 2018
“Even while forced online during these COVID years, Jordyn and everyone else at SHC has proved to be incredibly supportive and helpful both during, and outside of, the semester. And thanks to the scholarship, I was able to afford a much-needed iPad to assist with notes and worksheets that get posted online right before most of my classes.”
— Christian | 2019
“SHC has provided me with the necessary means, monetary wise and personally, to ensure that I succeed in my studies at UCLA. The support I’ve received from the team and staff is unmatched, and SHC will be an organization that I consider when I eventually walk across the stage when receiving my degree.”
— Anthony | 2019

Jordyn Roark, SHC’s Director of Youth Leadership and Scholarships, was featured on Secretary Cardona’s Twitter account, where she shared a video about her experiences as an unaccompanied homeless youth and how the American Rescue Plan would have helped her. 

Watch the Video

Shaping an Equitable Recovery for Students Without Homes

Proven strategies and unprecedented resources under federal law to address child and youth homelessness
Read the Article

Raising Awareness, Educating The Public

  • We were sought out for our expertise by numerous media outlets and were quoted in more than 40 storiesincluding Education Week, Chalkbeat, the Wall Street Journal, the National Journal, Teen Vogue, Politico, the Hechinger Report, and the 74 Million.
  • We were invited to publish a featured article in School Superintendentthe magazine of AASA, the School Superintendents Association. This award-winning magazine is delivered to every public school superintendent in the United States who is an AASA member and others at the cabinet-level.

SHC Appeared In 44 Media Stories

We launched a new series of stories: “Hidden Homelessness: Why Child, Youth, and Family Homelessness is the Crisis We Cannot Ignore.” Through first-person storytelling, the series explores the ways in which homelessness is an equity issue that is inextricably connected to others; it is an experience that many vulnerable student groups face at disproportionate rates and intersects deeply with other national crises of mental health, academic achievement gaps, xenophobia, and the impacts of systemic racism. Our five storytellers — two high school students and three school district homeless liaisons — remind us how the homelessness crisis underlies many others and therefore why federal policies and services for vulnerable children and youth must address the full picture of their lived experiences.

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Q&A From Our Inbox

400+ questions received in 2021

Top Webinars of 2021

1. New FAFSA Policies for Homeless and Foster Youth [Watch Here]

2. A Conversation with the CDC on School, Homelessness, and COVID-19 [Watch Here]

3. Child and Youth Homelessness and the American Rescue Plan Act [Watch Here]

4. Centering Anti-Racist Approaches in Conversations with McKinney-Vento Families and Colleagues [Watch Here]

5. Identifying and Staying in Touch with Homeless Students During the Pandemic: Learning from the Navigator Program in Nashville [Watch Here]

I have been advocating for colleges to hire MKV Liaisons in NJ as seen in other states. This webinar gave me ideas on suggesting to districts that they may want to consider hiring or tasking someone to become the person that tracks the student for the first year of college
— Diahann De Ruggiero, SEA or LEA employee NJ

Top Guest Blogs of 2021


Top Newsletters of 2021

1. Eviction Prevention, School Discipline, Archived ARP Webinar [Learn More]

2. A Collaboration Between a School District and Community Partner to House Families [Learn More]

3. Homelessness & Pregnancy in High School + New Head Start Data [Learn More]

4. Webinars: Eviction Prevention, FAFSA Mentor Program, Policy Updates [Learn More]

5. Hidden Homelessness: A Crisis We Cannot Ignore [Learn More]

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Top Research/Publications of 2021


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