Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: Concentrating our Approach to Help Students In Need

By Debbie Hiscott & Cecily Shea

During this time of giving thanks, it is important to recognize those in need, including families in Falls Church City who are challenged in meeting basic needs. The Falls Church Education Foundation is partnering with the Falls Church City Public Schools Family Assistance Fund to meet these needs, but we need your help.

The Falls Church Education Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, partners with the Falls Church City Public Schools to support all preschool through twelfth grade students and staff. We provide funding for innovative grants, advanced teacher training and programs to support underserved populations, including English language learners and students with special needs. We also steward over 20 scholarships benefiting our George Mason High School students.

While our “Little City” continues to grow and thrive overall, there are students and families within our community who face significant challenges and need extra support to ensure their academic success. Falls Church Education Foundation (FCEF) has several programs in place to assist these students, such as our after-school mentoring, literacy and numeracy tutoring program for English language learning students, No Holidays for Hunger (a hunger abatement program for holidays and weekends for Falls Church City School families), diabetes support for students with Type 1 diabetes, summer camp programs for English language learning students at Falls Church Parks and Recreation summer camps, and internet “hotspots” for families without internet.

There are two ways that Falls Church City Schools and the FCEF are concentrating their approach to helping families in need: through FCEF’s expansion and stewardship of the Family Assistance Fund and through a newly formed Falls Church City Public Schools Family Resource Center. The Center is available for families to ask questions, access school and community resources, use computers, and participate in activities. The Center is located at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School and is open during school hours.

More than 10 years ago, recognizing a critical need, Falls Church City Public Schools social workers created a Family Assistance Fund to raise and maintain funds to support their work. In addition to their day-to-day social work with students and families in Falls Church City, social workers have handled the fundraising and used donations to support students and families with whom they work. For many of our families, the support of the social workers allows their students to go to school well-fed, rested, healthy and ready to learn. The Family Assistance Fund provides help in many forms from school supplies to snack programs, clothing and emergency transportation needs, “bridge” funding to allow students to stay in school until other social service agencies take over, and more. Raising the funds to support this program has taken considerable effort and time by our social workers.

After extensive conversations with Falls Church City Public Schools leadership and social workers at all five schools, the Falls Church Education Foundation is excited to support this critical program by taking over centralized stewardship of the Family Assistance Fund. The foundation has the established fundraising and financial mechanisms to support management of the fund and provide prospective donors with a simplified approach to giving. This will allow our social workers to meet additional needs throughout the year and allow them to focus where they have the greatest impact – identifying student needs and delivering services and assistance with privacy and anonymity – and not on fundraising to meet their students’ needs.
The Falls Church Education Foundation has committed to raise $15,000 for the Family Assistance Fund during the balance of the 2018-2019 school year to enable the social workers at each school to expand their reach and scope to an additional hundred students. With your generosity, we can reach the $15,000 goal. During this time of Thanksgiving, please consider helping students in our own community who live with unmet basic needs. Thanks to those who have given to this fund in the past; we count on your continued support. We hope that many more community members will follow your lead.

To donate to the Family Assistance Fund, visit the FCEF website at www.fcedf.org and click on the Donate tab. You may specifically designate your donation to the Family Assistance Fund. Payment may also be made via check, payable to FCEF and mailed to the FCEF office at 800 W. Broad Street, Suite 203, Falls Church, VA 22046. If you would like to learn more about the FAF or the Falls Church Education Foundation, contact FCEF Executive Director Debbie Hiscott at dhiscott@fcedf.org.


Debbie Hiscott is executive director and Cecily Shea is president of the Falls Church Education Foundation.