"Most of our students are poor and we try to provide them with the services they need to survive and succeed," says Mary Skrabucha, coordinator for the Family Support Services Center at O'Farrell Community School in San Diego, California. "But, to serve the individual student effectively, you often have to serve the entire family," she adds.
The Family Support Services Center occupies an entire wing of the school's main building and is a measure of O'Farrell's commitment to serving the physical, emotional, and social needs of its 1,400 middle school students.
At the center, an assortment of full-time social workers, psychologists, and volunteers from various agencies provide a mix of preventative health care, gang-prevention workshops, and one-on-one counseling for parents, students, and staff.
Creating closer connections between the school and its community is a central goal of all significant activities at O'Farrell.
The center's staff meets regularly with teachers to discuss individual students and to plan ways to keep a sense of safety and inclusiveness throughout the school. Students are expected to play an active role in maintaining ties to the community. They are required to perform twelve hours of community service and give a tour of the school to an adult visitor.
Eighth grader John Roman knows O'Farrell is unusual. "I have adults I can trust here. I have counselors who work with me one-on-one and people who make it their business to look after me and my family. I know other schools don't have that."