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Staff Feature: Student and Family Advocates

Megan Lobb

Megan Lobb, SFAMegan Lobb works at Kirkwood Elementary and has been an SFA for 10 years. She serves over 280 students.

Q: What does a typical school day look like for you? 
I usually start my day by checking in with students. During the middle of the day, I usually have student groups and provide breaks for students who need them. I also work on coordinating programs like our mentoring, school-based therapy, and weekend food programs. At the end of the day, I am usually checking back in with students, coordinating transportation, and consulting with teachers.

Q: What resources do you help families navigate? 
Throughout the day I work with parents navigating systems like accessing mental health evaluations and services, scheduling medical appointments, filling out assistance program applications, and accessing basic needs resources. 
Q: What do you wish people knew about you/the services you provide? 
Most of the work that SFAs do is done behind closed doors and in confidential conversations. The things people see, such as providing school supplies, winter coats, and food bags, are a very small part of the work we do. It would be nice if they could know and see all the professional work we do in those confidential spaces and the expertise we bring to those difficult conversations, situations, and systems.

Thos Trefz & Katie Vodraska

Thos Trefz, SFAKatie Vodraska, SFAThos and Katie are SFAs at City High. This is Thos’ seventh year being an SFA and Katie’s first year. Katie previously served as an intern at the NESTT at City High School. Together, Thos and Katie serve over 1,600 students.

Q: What does a typical school day look like for you? 
Thos: I think our days are typically atypical and that's one of the things I enjoy about the job because you never know exactly what's going to need help or assistance in some way, so there's a lot of variety. 

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your career? 
Katie: I love being here. I love the environment and I love building relationships with the students and the staff. Getting the opportunity to find the small successes in the day and really getting to walk alongside them on some of the hardest things and then also some of the most exciting things for them. I think relationships feel like the biggest reason why I love my job and just getting to know their stories and getting to see them flourish. 

Q: How do you help provide support to the school?
Thos: We help when a student is having problems “doing school,” and whatever issues and barriers they may be encountering that are preventing them from finding success, however, they define it at school. Whether it’s emotional issues, whether it’s mental health, stuff going on at home, maybe it’s because they’re homeless or there’s food insecurity or they only have one pair of clothes and don’t want to come to school because they’re self-conscious about that, or there are academic things or peer things. It’s to help them identify those barriers and to help connect them with the resources or skills to help overcome those barriers.

Jennifer McGowan

Jennifer McGowanJennifer is an SFA at North Central Junior High. Jennifer has a background in teaching special education for numerous years. She has been an SFA at North Central for five years and was previously a paraeducator there. Jennifer serves over 547 students. 

Q: Why did you choose to be an SFA?
Ever since I was little I wanted to be a teacher. As a special education teacher, I always felt like there were times where I was a Band-Aid and there was something that needed to happen before students came into my classroom and were ready to learn. I felt like there was a need, and I just felt like there was no one to help fill those needs that affected the learning in my classroom. So, when I came here, and learned about the Student and Family Advocate job, I thought that's perfect because I love schools, I love kids, and I love learning. So, it was actually my dream job because it just includes everything that I am interested in and everything that means something to me.  

Q: What is a daily challenge that you face? 
For junior high and secondary, we don't want to take kids out of their core classes because they’ll miss out on learning. So if we need to talk to them or they need to talk to us, finding the time and a schedule between your other duties and their schedule can be difficult. 

Q: As students transition from junior high to high school, how does an SFA help the students transition? 
We really try to pay attention to making relationships with different staff members and someone that they connect with and we find kids whose success is very dependent on making a staff connection. We’ve especially seen that in the last few years. We really concentrated on building relationships, even long before COVID, but now it’s even more important because we have kids who don't know what a normal school year is like at the secondary level and they're just coming into it. We've seen a lot of changes that way, so we try to do a lot of communicating with the high school and talking with the kids about finding someone and getting involved in high school so that they feel part of the community.