Making a difference in students’ lives is only one reason Georgina Hernandez loves her job as a site coordinator at Communities In Schools of Federal Way, Wash. She also loves that the students teach her new things every day.
“I learn so much from them,” said Hernandez. “Some of the students have been through a lot. But they are so resilient. Providing a safe environment for them is very important to me.”
The site coordinator has been working with students for the past three years at Mirror Lake Elementary School. Hernandez, who has a bachelor’s degree in social work, has previously worked with children in foster care; but her job with Communities In Schools marks the first time she’s worked inside a school setting. Working one-on-one with students, parents and school staff is a highlight of her job and an area where she excels.
One student Hernandez worked with, who she recalls with great fondness, had lots of issues in school and at home. Hernandez arranged for the student to receive counseling, involved the student’s mother and provided daily check-ins to keep the student on track. In particular, the site coordinator recalled that the student struggled with math.
“At the end of the year, she took her state tests and successfully completed everything. She didn’t believe she could do it, and she cried because she was so happy. She’s now in middle school and doing well. I’m so proud to see how Communities In Schools impacted her.”
Hernandez provides Level Two services – targeted interventions – to 80 students at Mirror Lake. One of her biggest successes since arriving has been with the school’s extended day after-school program. By recruiting volunteers and community partners, with the goal of serving more students, Hernandez has helped bring a larger variety of enrichment programs including lessons in soccer, dancing, music, art, taekwondo and basketball. Nearly 300 of the elementary school students participate in the activities.
Hernandez, who was a 2012 Unsung Hero runner up, has also made a point of forging strong relationships with parents in the community. As a native Spanish-speaker, the site coordinator is an asset to many families by breaking down language barriers that can stand in the way of helping their children become successful students.
“The depth of the relationships Georgina has built with families and students is incredible,” said Mirror Lake Principal Maggie O’Sullivan. “She has had a significant and lasting effect on the students, families and staff of Mirror Lake Elementary. Georgina genuinely cares and everyone she comes in contact with senses this quality in her.”
Additional programs that Hernandez has started or enhanced include the Family Academy program, where she teaches parents English classes through Highline Community College, and English and Spanish parenting classes where 25 families participate to learn more about childcare.
“I love the mission of Communities In Schools,” said Hernandez. “Working with both kids and their families, I get to make a real connection. It’s through working with the entire family that you see the biggest impact.”