This winter, an administrative assistant at Fayette County Public Schools Central Office noticed that a mother and toddler had been waiting at the bus stop in front of the school district's offices on East Main Street for several days in a row with no coats.
The employee approached the woman, started up a conversation and found out the family had recently fallen on hard financial times and had no place to live. The mother said she and her children had moved in with a family member.
The mother said she was afraid if she reached out to her middle school age daughter's school for help , the child would have to change schools to the one assigned to the family member’s home. The mother was getting up with both of her children on school mornings to catch the city bus so that her middle school daughter made it to school on time.
The employee was Pam White, who in her position in the Office of Student Support Services, helps coordinate district services for families who are experiencing homelessness.
District spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said at Monday's school board meeting that White was being honored "for not only serving the children and families who walk through her door, but for opening her heart to find those who may not know to ask for help."
White knew that under the federal McKinney Vento Act, the family would qualify for services that would allow the middle school student to remain at her current school and would provide transportation so her academic progress would not be disrupted.
“We want to help remove the barriers to your child’s education so if you come up to my office we can get you signed up for a program that can help,," White told the mother, Deffendall said.
In her office, White registered the mother for the McKinney Vento –Homeless Education Program and then found three coats that fit the mother, the toddler, and the middle school student. The mother cried. She said she was embarrassed.
“With grace and humility, Pam told her that there was no need to be embarrassed and reassured her that things would get better,” Deffendall said.
After the woman left White's office, White made arrangements for the family to have services that included transportation, clothing, and school supplies . White said Monday that she remains in contact with the mother as the woman continues to look for housing.
Deffendall said White works tirelessly to serve some of the district's most vulnerable students and their families, while treating them with dignity and respect. In 2017-18, district officials helped more than 740 Fayette County Public Schools students who were experiencing homelessness, Deffendall said.
"I'm just humbled," White said about her work with families experiencing homelessness. "It's a ministry. I'm serving the least of them."