Grant benefits student teachers, homeless kids


A community program founded by WSU faculty member Susan Finley seven years ago recently received a grant allowing her to assess the program so other communities can benefit from what she is learning.

Finley, a College of Education associate professor at WSU Vancouver, founded At Home At School (AHAS) to provide fun educational activities and tutoring to needy children, educate teachers on how to help these kids, and research the results. A $170,000 grant for three years from the Legacy Health System’s Community Health Fund will pay other faculty to take on Finley’s teaching responsibilities so she can devote time to evaluating AHAS.
“We have a huge database of field notes,” she said. “Specifically, we want to know: Does the program help K-12 students bridge achievement gaps? Is the experience helpful when graduating teachers get their own diverse classrooms?”
“Dr. Finley’s research will promote development of best teaching practices that help youth facing significant social and economic challenges,” said Kari Stanley, of the Portland-based legacy Health System, which includes six hospitals.
The AHAS program provides educational activities and lunch for homeless, low-income and underserved students in the summer, as well as tutoring during the school year. It just received a $50,000 Swift 4 Kids grant to construct an outdoor environmental classroom with community partners.
Children pose with a teacher in the At Home At School
community program. (Photo courtesy of the College of

AHAS has grown from 25 students initially to an expected 400 next year.

Finley also has chaired WSU Vancouver’s master in teaching program, whose students must spend 50 hours in a “field diversity experience.” For most of them, that means working with AHAS.
“There is an immense benefit to the community and to myself,” said Kris Hackett, who is student-teaching a sixth-grade class. She is one of 17 AHAS scholars — teachers who receive help paying tuition or making school loan payments in exchange for volunteering with the program. She coordinates the school-year tutoring in homeless shelters.
AHAS operates on a shoestring budget of in-kind and small grants.
“It’s hard to come by pencils, paper, dictionaries, art supplies and, of course, computers,” Finley said. A long list of these and other items needed by the program can be found ONLINE @

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