Advancing Education and Protecting Vulnerable Youth

Appleseed seeks to ensure that public schools are vibrant, safe, stimulating and diverse places where all students have an opportunity to learn. The network’s programs in education aim to engage parents in building better schools, ensure that resources are distributed equitably among schools, and that schools comply with laws aimed at ensuring opportunities for all, especially the most vulnerable: poor children, minorities, targets of bullying, English language learners, and students with disabilities. Our broader programming for vulnerable youth is directed towards foster children and former foster children, immigrant children, and homeless children.

Student Discipline (Keeping Kids in Class)

Across the country, an overzealous embrace of zero-tolerance policies by school administrators have often led to students in violation of even minor school rules finding themselves not in the principal’s office, but in a police precinct instead.

We believe that our public institutions should set the stage for genuine opportunity for all, and when schools systematically purge great numbers of students from their rolls, something is amiss.

Appleseed’s Relevant Experts: Bob Kettle (Connecticut), Rob Rhodes (Georgia), Joan Meschino (Massachusetts), Yonina Hoffman-Wanderer (Massachusetts), Sarah Helvey (Nebraska), Amanda Adler (South Carolina), Deborah Fowler (Texas), Karla Vargas (Texas), Mary Schmid Mergler (Texas)


Youth in Foster Care

The process of becoming a fully functioning adult is hard enough for those with an involved, stable, and caring network of parents and family members. For foster care kids − both those currently in the system as well as those recently aged out of it − it’s infinitely harder. They face a higher risk of abuse, poverty, criminal victimization, incarceration, homelessness, suicide and early death than children in more stable family environments.

We believe we owe it to these wards to make a non-optimal situation better and ease their transition into a stable adulthood.

Appleseed’s Relevant Experts: Rob Rhodes (Georgia),  Joan Meschino (Massachusetts),  Yonina Hoffman-Wanderer (Massachusetts),  Sarah Helvey (Nebraska), Amanda Adler (South Carolina), Deborah Fowler (Texas), Karla Vargas (Texas), Mary Schmid Mergler (Texas)


Courts and Juvenile Justice

Juvenile courts deal primarily with three types of cases: delinquency, deprivation, and status offenses. Delinquency cases involve children under the age of 17 who are accused of committing acts that would be crimes if committed by an adult; deprivationcases involve children under the age of 18 whose parents or guardians have been accused of abusing or neglecting them; status offenses are acts that are considered offenses solely because the offender is a child under the age of 18.

We believe that juvenile courts require an especially deft and compassionate touch to ensure the best possible outcomes for youth; we work with policymakers, educators, families and communities to ensure this.

Appleseed’s Relevant Experts: Rob Rhodes (Georgia), Joan Meschino (Massachusetts), Yonina Hoffman-Wanderer (Massachusetts), Sarah Helvey (Nebraska), Amanda Adler (South Carolina), Deborah Fowler (Texas), Karla Vargas (Texas), Mary Schmid Mergler (Texas)


Rights of Immigrant Children

Rights of Immigrant Children

Every year, tens of thousands of minors from Mexico and Central American countries make the perilous journey north and attempt to cross the border into the United States. Fleeing almost unimaginable violence and poverty, they and their parents hope desperately for the chance at a better life through economic and educational opportunities in the United States. Often unaccompanied, these minors are highly vulnerable to trafficking or other forms of abuse.

We believe that a compassionate and humane response is called for – one in line with the United States’ fundamental moral and legal obligations toward children, regardless of whether they have legal papers upon arrival.

Appleseed’s Relevant Experts: Rob Rhodes (Georgia), Joan Meschino (Massachusetts), Yonina Hoffman-Wanderer (Massachusetts), Sarah Helvey (Nebraska), Amanda Adler (South Carolina), Deborah Fowler (Texas), Karla Vargas (Texas), Mary Schmid Mergler (Texas)


Hunger In School

Every day, millions of children across the country start the school day hungry; an occasional and minor nuisance to some, it’s a chronic and significant burden for others. Some may have dashed out the door before their parents could get breakfast on the table; others may not be able to get to school early enough to participate in a school breakfast program; and some may not have enough food at home but do not quite qualify for meal assistance at school. Regardless of the reason, children and youth generally cannot learn effectively on an empty stomach, and much of the time, energy and money we as a country invest in education is thus wasted. You might even say that a full belly is a prerequisite to a full mind.

We support movements to allow students access to free and reduced price breakfasts, and work to remove barriers to such programs. One such barrier is simply the timing of a school breakfast. Appleseed’s research has shown that the idea originally conceived of as breakfast before the bell has serious limitations: Not only are those students most in need of the program perhaps the least likely to have the ability to arrive to school early, they are often reluctant to do so for fear of being stigmatized as poor. Why else arrive at school before the scheduled start of classes if not to partake in free or reduced-price meals?

We’ve found that a simple shift in the timing – breakfast after the bell provided to all students equally – can make a world of difference. By incorporating meal programs into the start of the school day – when attendance is being taken, for example – participation rates skyrocket. Without any indication as to who is eating breakfast because they are needy and who is eating simply because the food is available, we can set the stage for high level education across the board.

Appleseed’s Relevant Experts: Rob Rhodes (Georgia), Joan Meschino (Massachusetts), Yonina Hoffman-Wanderer (Massachusetts), Sarah Helvey (Nebraska), Amanda Adler (South Carolina), Deborah Fowler (Texas), Karla Vargas (Texas), Mary Schmid Mergler (Texas)


Homeless Youth

Across the country, approximately 1.7 million youth under the age of 18 experience homelessness each year, and unaccompanied youth − those not in the care of a parent or guardian − appear to be one of the fastest growing and most vulnerable segments of this larger homeless population. Homeless youth face unique barriers to healthcare and education; constantly on the move, it is almost impossible for them to be successful in school. Because of the lack of adult financial support, and with limited opportunities to earn income legally, these youth sometimes resort to criminal behavior or bartering sex acts to secure basic necessities like food, clothing and shelter.

We believe that a robust engagement strategy is necessary to protect these vulnerable youth.

Appleseed’s Relevant Experts: Rob Rhodes (Georgia), Joan Meschino (Massachusetts), Yonina Hoffman-Wanderer (Massachusetts), Sarah Helvey (Nebraska), Amanda Adler (South Carolina), Deborah Fowler (Texas), Karla Vargas (Texas), Mary Schmid Mergler (Texas)


Equity and Diversity

Each day children in poverty attend urban, suburban and county schools deserving (and likely expecting) education resources that match the quality available to their more affluent cross-town rivals in the same district. Since Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, this vision of equity has been the implied legal promise of public schooling in the United States. Yet, two generations after Brown, students are still attending schools where resources are not evenhandedly apportioned. Sometimes the result of school boards and superintendents distributing pivotal resources in a way that becomes unintentionally uneven, sometimes a result of household income, and sometimes a result of race, a significant opportunity gap is created between children living in well-off versus poor neighborhoods.

We believe that all students have the right to public education in a safe environment that allows for maximum learning potential. Policies and practices regarding educational equity should be applied without consideration of race, ethnicity, gender, or disability.

Appleseed’s Relevant Experts: Rob Rhodes (Georgia), Joan Meschino (Massachusetts), Yonina Hoffman-Wanderer (Massachusetts), Sarah Helvey (Nebraska), Amanda Adler (South Carolina), Deborah Fowler (Texas), Karla Vargas (Texas), Mary Schmid Mergler (Texas)


Parent Engagement

The role of schools has been expanded in recent years and national attention on student learning is focused as never before. Today, public schools are faced with the tough assignment of assuring that every child reaches minimum standards. But this should cannot be delegated to educators alone – if one really wants to transform education, it truly takes a parent. While testing and accountability have commanded almost constant attention since the No Child Left Behind Act became federal law, often overlooked is the special power of parents to lift their children to new academic heights.

We believe that parent involvement is vital to the success of both students and schools. All parents should be informed of the academic progress of their children and the performance of their schools; and involved in meaningful ways as a partner with school officials.

Appleseed’s Relevant Experts:  Rob Rhodes (Georgia), Joan Meschino (Massachusetts), Yonina Hoffman-Wanderer (Massachusetts), Sarah Helvey (Nebraska), Amanda Adler  (South Carolina), Deborah Fowler (Texas), Karla Vargas (Texas), Mary Schmid Mergler (Texas)


Children and Youth Health

When youth are feeling healthy, they are better able to grow both mentally and physically.

We believe that everyone deserves the right to a healthy childhood and many Appleseed Centers work to improve the availability of healthcare for those who do not have it.

Appleseed’s Relevant Experts: Rob Rhodes (Georgia), Joan Meschino (Massachusetts), Yonina Hoffman-Wanderer (Massachusetts), Sarah Helvey (Nebraska), Amanda Adler (South Carolina), Deborah Fowler (Texas), Karla Vargas (Texas), Mary Schmid Mergler(Texas)


Preventing School Bullying

No longer accepted as a normal or harmless part of adolescence, bullying is now rightly recognized as a serious threat to students’ well being. When schools fail to prevent bullying, the targets feel isolated, lonely and depressed; many cannot focus on their studies because they are haunted by fear, and suicides and attempted suicides are all too frequent. And as has been chronicled far too many times, the bullied sometimes snap with tragic consequences for both their bulliers and innocent bystanders.

We believe that schools and parents must take a strong, unwavering stand against bullying, rendering it unacceptable by both social and scholastic standards.

Appleseed’s Relevant Experts: Bob Kettle (Connecticut), Rob Rhodes (Georgia), Joan Meschino (Massachusetts), Yonina Hoffman-Wanderer (Massachusetts), Sarah Helvey (Nebraska), Amanda Adler (South Carolina), Deborah Fowler (Texas), Karla Vargas (Texas), Mary Schmid Mergler (Texas)