Houston Area Schools Reach Out to Katrina Kids

Houston area schools were impacted by thousands of Katrina evacuee's children. And now with school out, summer programs are trying to reach out to those kids. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports

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The Greater Houston Community Foundation set up the Kids of Katrina Recovery Fund shortly after evacuees started arriving in Houston. The focus is on summer programs now that kids are out of school. Foundation Community Investing Vice President Domingo Barrios says $65,000 in grants are going to summer programs focused on Katrina kids.

"And there was the assumption that many of these kids were going to stay in the area and given that summers were down time, we wanted to have creative activities and opportunities for them to engage in and to stay out of trouble and also to prepare them for the next school year."

Barrios says the summer programs provide recreational, educational and life skill activities.

"Some of the organizations that were selected also have a lot of expertise in counseling and mental health. We thought that was a component that was important to this population as well. So some of them will be offering counseling to those kids who probably need that type of service."

One grant recipient is the Stay Connected program with Neighborhood Centers Inc. Program Director Dave Detcher says four locations have at least 52 Katrina kids some of them are on full scholarship because of other grants. Detcher says families continue to need help adapting.

"A lot of the family activities they normally did before the hurricane aren't necessarily happening because they are trying to get their houses rebuilt. They are trying to get, you know, trying to make decisions, trying to find jobs. And so they are really appreciative of having a place to bring their kids where they can have structured activities and have fun and interact with other kids."

The Stay Connected program is not only helping kids, 25 of the 27 staff members are evacuees, including Rashida Jackson. The Jackson family is getting by without any housing assistance, but they've gone through the money they had saved for a down payment on a home they almost bought weeks before Katrina made landfall. Jackson's two sons are involved in the summer programs.

"It makes it where they can kind get a sense of being somewhere, and a normalcy, so to speak, you know, and routine, that's very important."

Jackson's husband is back in New Orleans working for the Housing Authority while she and the boys continue to live in Houston. During the school year, Jackson says the kids did well academically. But she still worries.

"Socially I worry about them a little more just because they are having to make so many different little adjustments. So it's, the transition was difficult."

Officials with the Greater Houston Community Foundation expect to continue to provide support through next summer. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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