Students who are considered homeless by Florida schools can be living in hotels, trailer parks, in campgrounds or doubled up with friends or relatives. And with as many as 71,000 or more homeless students in the state the challenges can extend beyond the kids and families to include the schools.
For most kids school is a place of achievement and learning, or just a place to socialize with friends. But for kids without stable living arrangements it can mean much more than that.
Tampa Bay 2-1-1
It's difficult to estimate how many students are homeless.
School districts want to help their homeless students, but first they have to know who they are.
Estimates vary greatly on how many homeless students there are in Florida. Some say the number is as high as one in every 18.
Ken Gaughan supervises social work for Hillsborough County Public Schools. They asked experts how many homeless students they may have.
“And the input we get is – you need to look at your free lunch count in the district and our free lunch count is pretty high,” Gaughan said. “It’s around 55 percent. They say about 10 percent of your free lunch population is also homeless. And that’s a pretty big number.”
State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is briefed on AMskills.
Not every high school student wants to or even needs to go to college, but graduating students without a college degree may have a hard time gaining entry or experience at companies hiring for high paying, high skilled jobs. A local program is trying to bring that experience to graduating students.
Seven years in the making, AMskills was designed to be a German style apprenticeship program where tenth grade students apply to get in, just like applying for a job, and train on the job while earning good money. After graduation, they have experience and sometimes a job waiting for them.
“We’re always looking for a skilled workforce,” Juergen Borsh, general consul for Germany, said. “This is one of the big obstacles when a decision is being made in a German company- where do we want to go and invest?”
Borsch said German businesses in the US want to expand their operations but they can’t find enough workers who have the skills they need.
“I have learned here in Florida, I have been here for two years now, that many companies say we would love to expand,” Borsch said, “We could expand– we need the people, and I hear this in so many different fields.”
Enterprise Avenue contains the banking, shopping and dining destinations for students visiting Enterprise Village.
The first time some students learn about finances is during a high school economics class. Others learn by trial and error, but one program in the Tampa Bay area already has a history of helping students get an early start on making sense of their finances.
Here in central Pinellas County, just like any community in America, it’s early morning and everyone is beginning to show up for work.
Buses are unloading and students are heading to businesses like Verizon, Duke Energy and CVS Pharmacy which are getting ready to open.
But here on Enterprise Avenue all of these businesses are being run by fifth graders.
The students line up and shuffle their way impatiently into a building where the inside looks like a cross between a small town Main Street and a shopping mall. There’s a city hall decorated with patriotic bunting at one end and the local newspaper office at the other.
This is all part of Enterprise Village, a self-contained small town. It’s where elementary students get first-hand experience as business owners, employees and consumers.
The entrance to Enterprise High School, a charter school in Pinellas County for students at risk for not completing their educations.
Of the more than 600 charter schools in Florida. Some focus on the arts, some on sciences. Others are high schools that help students who are at risk for not finishing or dropping out completely.
At the crossroads of busy four lane highway in Clearwater, students have to make their way through the noise and exhaust of heavy traffic to get to their high school classes.
Tucked in the back of of a strip mall is Enterprise High School. The 5-year-old charter school focuses on just one kind of student, those at risk for not finishing high school at all.
You may have one a lot like it very close by and not even know it.
Donna Hulbert, Director of the school says Enterprise gives its student free bus passes, eliminating one obstacle to getting here on time.
“We are located here, really, for one purpose only. We have four bus stops on the corners of our intersection.”
Academy Prep in St. Petersburg is a private middle school that only enrolls low-income students.
It’s 7:30 a.m. and the fifth through eight graders at Academy Prep in midtown St. Petersburg are lined up outside to recite the school pledge. It’s a cool February morning and they’re a little fidgety until Head of School Gina Burkett raises two fingers above her head and all goes quiet.
The pledge starts with “ Standing in this room are the greatest, most committed, most responsible people this world has ever known.”
That may sound slightly immodest but getting these kids to believe they are capable of great things is a big part of the curriculum here.
You see, Academy Prep is a private middle school exclusively for children whose families live below the poverty level and it is paid for entirely with corporate and private donations. It’s in one of the poorest areas of Pinellas County.
The school was started 17 years ago when the owners of a local resort overheard their employees talking about the problems their kids were having in the local public school.
So, using their own money and private donations they, along with some retired educators started this not-for-profit school in the heart of one of St. Petersburg’s most troubled neighborhoods.