Brownsville ISD providing holiday cheer to students through homeless youth program
Financial hardship forced Valerie Benavidez and her two children to stay at a hotel, and then the Ozanam Center shelter.
"I'm a single parent taking care of my two kids, and it's been hard," Benavides said. “I didn't want my children to know what was going on because I didn't want them to be affected. It was very stressful being kicked out and having nowhere to go, nowhere to turn."
Catholic Charities is now helping Benavidez financially, while her children —aged 12 and 13 — are receiving support from the Brownsville Independent School District’s Homeless Youth Connection Project,
As part of the project, 1,300 students are given school supplies, food, counseling and more.
“We have our Christmas tree up, but we have nothing under it. Thankfully, through this program, we're going to be able to have something and my kids are going to be able to enjoy Christmas," Benavidez said.
Besides helping the Benavides family, the district is also hoping to make Christmas special for 387 students through the "Adopt an Angel" event.
The angels are students who are homeless, living in shelters or hotels, or being looked after by relatives.
"A lot of our school staff has helped us collect a wish list from each student that we identified as unaccompanied youth at that time, and so those wish lists have come back," Diana Clough — project coordinator for the homeless youth connection project — said.
Under the program, BISD staff members paired up with different students "and share a little bit of Christmas joy for them, so they have something to unwrap on Christmas," Clough added.
Gifts collected through Adopt An Angel will be handed out to students later this month. Those hoping to donate items can do so by calling the district’s homeless youth connection project at 956-544-6612.