Hope, one of her class’ top students, was managing the excitement of completing a professional certification program and preparing to enroll in college to pursue a career in information technology. Proud of all she had achieved, including a GPA in the top 5% of her class, her classmates routinely sought opportunities to “take her down a peg.” More than once Hope had met with Communities in Schools staff, sharing her sadness at being teased about her success by peers, and feeling hurt that her parents didn’t seem to care that she’d received awards, accolades, and those “A” average report cards. CIS staff had been supportive of Hope, helping her with college preparation, support with clothes, supplies, and fees needed for school.
Having been brought to this country at age eight by her parents, Hope felt lonely when her parents worked long hours. At age 12 Hope was befriended by a fifteen year old boy. Their relationship grew close, and after four years they married. Living with Hope’s parents, the young couple began their life together and soon found out they were expecting a child. That news rattled Hope’s husband, and soon he was staying out late, partying with friends who Hope feared were gang members. Hope learned that her husband was using and selling drugs. In the midst of these problems, Hope delivered a son. As a young mother, Hope tried to make decisions about what would be best for her and her son. Her husband had been a good person, and he’d often promised to be a good father. His behavior did not always match his promises. In fact, he had threatened to kill Hope several times, wielding a knife to back up that promise. When he sent her a message that he had overdosed and was dying, Hope realized she had had enough. She told him that she was done, and that he was not welcome to live in the house with their child and her family. It was Thanksgiving, but he would have to leave.
Though it was during the holiday break, Hope contacted Communities in Schools staff. She was very scared and needed help. Hope’s husband had contacted a government agency to turn her in and have her deported. She was afraid that he would find a way to take their son from her, and have her whole family deported. CIS staff began calling on resources with Bay Area Turning Point and the Houston Area Women’s Center who provided referrals for help. Though resources were closing for the holiday, an offer of a pro bono consultation from an attorney experienced in immigration issues was gratefully welcomed. CIS staff picked up Hope and took her across town to meet with this attorney. In this meeting she recounted the times her husband had told her that he would kill her, that he had been involved in a murder, and his repeated reassurances that if he couldn’t have her, then no one could. Since she did not have means to pay for extensive legal support, he recommended that she apply for a protective order through the District Attorney’s office as soon as possible, providing the contact information for that. CIS staff agreed to take her. The next day CIS staff and Hope spent in completing the application for the order, and the follow up meeting with an attorney at the YMCA’s Immigrant Legal Assistance Program. Exhausted, but not as afraid, she left knowing what information she needed to gather, with reassurance that she was taking the best steps to protect her son and herself, with legal advice on how best to proceed, and resources in case of emergency.
Hope asked whether CIS staff normally worked over the holiday break and was told, “We do when it is really important.” Hope’s father remarked, “This ‘teacher’ from the school must really love children to help Hope and her son so much.” The truth is that many in the community want to protect and help children. Communities in Schools staff, in their work with students, enlist and direct the myriad of resources to ensure the children receive the help that is needed, when it is needed.