“There is really no way to describe being financially broke to someone who has never been there. I’m talking about not having enough change to walk to McDonald’s to get one item off the dollar menu, broke.”
The excerpt above is from a young man named John who’s family was ripped apart by drugs, his parents, jailed, his sister lost to government care, and who survived abuse in the care system, yet he has had the fortitude to persevere.
Today he’s attending university in Washington, thanks to the generosity of Masons.
More than 40,000 students a year in Washington state experience homelessness, and upwards of 13,000 of those young people don’t have parents, grandparents, or other relatives looking after them – known in the system as unaccompanied homeless minors – or in lay terms, orphans. These are young people who are not even in foster care.
On the Level Student Success is a program designed to partner with schools, Masonic Lodges and other organizations to help keep students experiencing homelessness in school. Young people who change schools frequently, or who have low attendance are more likely to drop out. Our program is designed to keep the students engaged and connected to the school.
Why is this important? More than 50% of youth experiencing homelessness drop out of school. High school drop outs make up a majority of people in jail. High school drop outs make, on average $8,000 less a year than high school graduates, and an average of $26,000 less a year than college graduates. Other risk factors, including psychological problems, increase use of social services and government programs. Our program alleviates costs to the individual and our communities across the state.
On the Level Student Success is the Masonic Fraternity’s response to this challenge. While we can’t solve the challenge of homelessness, our goal is to help these students stay in school, complete their grade level, and go on to graduate so they can have the best chance at success in life with a high school diploma.
Washington Masonic Charities works directly with local Masonic Lodges, school district homeless student coordinators, and other community organizations. We work with Lodges and other organizations to garner resources to help students with the needs identified by the school district coordinator and the student. The resources we bring to the table help with things that aren’t available through other resources, and we do not send money directly to schools or school districts.
When a Lodge or group partners with us, we work directly with the local school district to identify specific needs and provide them with the path and infrastructure to obtain the resources. We work quickly to make sure that the young person’s needs are being met in a timely fashion.
Examples include things like supports for work including clothing, transportation and communication assistance; fees and resources for participation in extra-curricular activities; temporary shelter following medical procedures; food; and a host of other things tailored to suit the young person’s specific situation.
Since its inception, Washington Masonic Charities On the Level Student Success program has helped more than 170 students stay in school and succeed. That is potential savings of nearly $3.5 million for our communities in incarceration prevention this past year alone. That is a potential savings to the community of just over $1,500 for every staff hour we put in, and a cost effectiveness ratio of $12 value for every $1 in program cost.
To get involved or partner with WA Masonic Charities on this important program, please email or call our Children and Youth Programs Coordinator, Kurt Miller, at 253.442.2505 X 108. You can also contribute to this program by following this link, or sending a check to WA Masonic Charities Attn: On The Level PO Box 65830 University Place WA, 98464.