Last week about a thousand Chicago Public Schools employees were laid off. Roughly half were teachers and the rest were support staff.
Patricia Scott was one of them. For 20 years she was a school clerk at Prosser Career Academy High School on Chicago’s Northwest Side.
At Prosser, she also worked as the in-school advocate for homeless students . After learning about her story, we spoke with Scott at her home on Thursday about her role with students and what this layoff will mean for her.
What did being the liaison to homeless students entail?
Within the parameters of the STLS program - that is Students in Temporary Living Situations - they are allowed bus passes that I give them every week. If they need medical or dental attention I help them with that. Over the years I have helped students find housing. I have had relationships with pastors in the area who, in a pinch, sometimes have a room where we can put someone until I can find something more permanent. And of course there are the shelters.
Tell us about a student you remember working with. What was her situation and how did you help her?
I can tell you about someone I was with very recently. She’s a young girl, very bright. Her mom is incarcerated and she lost her place to live when mom went into jail in January. Mom called me from jail not long before school ended. We had a nice conversation. She was very emotional, thanked me for helping her daughter.
What I tend to worry about is that it’s so difficult for these teenagers to trust people because of the situations they’ve already been through in their lives. It takes a long time to build up that relationship.
So I’ve done this with this young lady and I told her who would be taking over my program. She’s not having it. So I’m going to continue to keep in touch with her through texts and maybe take her out to lunch every now and then just to make sure she’s okay.
What’s changed in the 20 years you’ve been doing this?
The program has grown tremendously. Tremendously. I started out in 1996 with two students and I have been as high as 81. This current year - the end of the school year - I had 68.
Are you worried at all about what happens to you next? What are you going to do?
I’m 57 years old. I’m terrified. I’m way too young to retire. And I need my health insurance of course. I need a job.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.