With a passion for working with students and families, Mara Kubacki has been hired as the youth and families in transition advocate in Anoka-Hennepin School District 11.
The position was created because the number of Anoka-Hennepin students identified as experiencing homelessness increased from 248 at the end of the 2010-11 school year to more than 500 at the end of last school year.
An employee of the school district since 2005, Kubacki joined the student services department six months ago as a secretary supporting Karrie Schaaf, the homeless youth and families liaison, and the equity and diversity team.
“When I got the job and realized what is happening with students in our district, I felt like I had been very sheltered,” Kubacki said.
“I had no idea that people are living in their cars and that students in our district lack basic needs like food and clothing.
“And I didn’t know that the district has a department that supports students in need and works to prevent homelessness.”
Kubacki said the issues facing Schaaf in her work were shocking to her.
“It was devastating to me, not just as a district employee but as a parent to learn there are so many students in need,” Kubacki said.
“We have highly mobile students sleeping at friends’ houses and in parking lots. It’s heartbreaking to me.
“On the positive side we have many resources to help students. We have food shelves and the work of the Anoka-Hennepin School District, Faith and Community Partnership. That amazed me.”
For Kubacki it was a natural transition from supporting Schaaf from the Educational Service Center to working beside her at the Family Welcome Center.
She gained a good sense of internal and community resources available to students and families and where to go for help, according to Kubacki.
“The biggest difference now is that I talk directly with families,” said Kubacki. “That’s exciting to me, I love working with people.”
In her first weeks, Kubacki was involved with distributing food to families in need through the summer lunch box program as well as playing a role in the back to-school events Aug. 6 at Champlin Park and Coon Rapids high schools.
Held last year at Champlin Park, the event provides school supplies, clothing and free haircuts to students who need back-to-school support.
This year community resource tables and health and wellness checks were added. Between the two events, more than 700 students were served.
“I remember what it was like to get new school supplies and back to school clothes and it’s hard to know that some students go without these things,” Kubacki said.
“We want students to be excited for school and be prepared so they can be successful.”
In addition to helping students and families, Kubacki is looking forward to her new role because of the opportunity to work with Schaaf, who she calls “a fantastic mentor and amazing woman.”
“I hope someday to have as much knowledge about resources and how to help families as Karrie does,” Kubacki said.
“We have so many students and families in our district who are struggling and need positive reinforcement.
“There is so much need. I feel very fortunate to be part of the solution.”