Life Skills 101
If you walk into a STARRY Life Skills Class at one of dozens of schools in Central Texas, you’ll see the faces of kids who look like they have nothing in common. One is a teenage mom. Another is a straight-laced honor roll student. Yet another is a teen who has been sleeping on a friend’s couch. But one thing unites them – they are all at risk. And they each need STARRY’s help to survive.
“We’re trying to teach these kids to advocate for themselves because many of them don’t have adults actively involved in their lives,” said Toniya Parker, SAFE Program Supervisor. “Many of these kids have been living on the streets or couch surfing. Others of them have made choices that affect them negatively. They all need support and guidance.”
SAFE – an acronym for Shelter Alternatives and Family Empowerment – conducts the Life Skills Program at schools in Round Rock, Georgetown, Taylor and Pflugerville school districts, as well as in STARRY's offices in Round Rock.
The idea is to give kids basic tools that will enable them to be independent and successful, something made more difficult by the absence of parental figures.
“A lot of our kids, for instance, won’t be able to open a checking account because they don’t have anyone to co-sign for them,” said Toniya. “So, our staff teaches them the Dave Ramsey envelope system to help them manage their finances.”
Classes also cover topics like healthy relationships, conflict resolution, job hunting techniques, apartment locating and grocery shopping. In essence, STARRY is teaching Life 101.
“These kids are not learning these things at home because their home lives are chaotic and they are at risk for many things, including dropping out of school and becoming victims of violent crime,” Toniya said.
“If you ask five kids if they know someone who slept on someone else’s couch or in a car last night, chances are you will find two of them who say they do,” she said. “The problem is huge. These kids are very good at getting by. Most of them don’t get in trouble or cause problems. And most of the time you would never know they are homeless or couch surfing.”
Providing Life Skills classes in the community and within school districts is one way STARRY is helping connect with these adolescents.
SAFE also is reaching out to kids as young as middle school in an effort to eliminate runaway behavior or homelessness before it occurs by teaching adolescents to support and advocate for themselves.
“Our goal among all these programs is to provide a support system for these kids,” said Toniya. “So that when they move forward they have what they need to succeed.”
“And the community can do its part by being aware of the problem,” she continued.
It’s great to be able provide a couch for a kid to sleep on each night, but if you know a child who is couch surfing, please call our hotline number at 1-888-206-4579. By contacting SAFE, you can help each of these kids get access to resources that can provide long-term assistance.
To learn more, visit STARRY at www.starryonline.org and click on the Services link. For non-emergency situations, you can also call SAFE at (512) 246-4303 or email email@example.com.