The Person You Needed as a Child
Stacy Thomas is the Youth Service Center Coordinator at McCracken County High School. While she does not hold a teaching degree, the life lessons she provides to the students at the high school are nothing less than life-changing qualifying her, in our book, as an extraordinary educator.
The primary goal of Family Resource and Youth Service Centers are to remove nonacademic barriers to learning as a means to enhance student academic success. Over 40% of McCracken County High School students qualify for the free and reduced lunch program thus qualifying them for the grant funded programs that the McCracken County Mustangs Youth Services Center provides. Students’ needs are not limited to food, shelter, and clothing, however. Ms. Thomas’ goal is to address the holistic needs of every student, regardless of their household income.
“When children are in elementary school, they don’t realize they are different from other kids in terms of household income and access to resources,” explains Ms. Thomas. “Kids are just kids. They don’t give a second thought to proudly wearing a new pair of shoes given to them by a teacher or packing home food in their backpacks on Friday evenings to sustain them through the weekend. By the time a child reaches high school, however, they know the stigma associated with poverty. They are far less likely to ask for what they need and a result suffer in silence. The outcome is poor performance in school that leads to reduced success rates after school. Our programs level the field. We lead with programs that are beneficial to every student. In the process, we are able to identify those kids that need a little something extra and connect them to the resources they need in a discreet manner.”
In her role, Ms. Thomas must engage and maintain relationships with parents, community members, faculty and students to address the always changing needs of our community and the challenges faced by her students. If we are to succeed as a community, we must unite as one. Anyone who has worked in the grant world knows that funding is always limited and never a guarantee. It’s with this in mind that Ms. Thomas reserves her limited budget for students with significant needs while leveraging community resources already in existence to fill the remaining gaps. This results in non-duplication of social services in our area.
Ms. Thomas’ programs are available to all students and include life skill programs to prepare high school students for the transition to secondary education and career opportunities. These include, but not limited to, college preparation, job development, resume building, and mock interview sessions are all coordinated between Ms. Thomas, teachers and business leaders from throughout our community. Additional programs address the challenges that teens often face as they transition from children to adults. These programs include topics such as substance abuse, healthy relationship, social media awareness, distracted driving, and health/mental wellness. She leverages these all-inclusive programs to build relationships with her students. Ms. Thomas gift is not just her ability to coordinate people, places, and things to stretch limited funding to meet the needs of HOW MANY students at MCHS. What sets her apart is her passion fueled by her electric personality. She’s real with her students, addresses tough topics head-on, and as a result is able to quickly gain their trust and identify other needs that, when properly addressed, keep children from falling into the shadows.
“I didn’t get into this work for the ‘thanks.’ I got into this work to try to make a difference. I was ‘that kid’ who needed the extra help in many ways. Kids know we are trying to help and if I can get them to see beyond their present circumstances to where they could be, that’s my reward. The opportunity to be that person to today’s students is an honor for me.”