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Overcoming Adversity Pays Off for Washington D.C. Family

​Overcoming adversity is never easy. But when a family leaves one country for another, abandoning all forms of support at home, the challenge can become overwhelming.

That was the case for Zoila Lopez and her 10-year-old son, Junior. Zoila and Junior left Guatemala to get away from an abusive situation in the home. They ended up finding refuge in Washington D.C.

Despite knowing little English, having limited resources and no support network, Zoila was able to enroll Junior in a D.C. public school. Unfortunately, it wasn't long before he ended up on the school's truant list. That's how Boys Town became involved.

Students identified as truant are referred to a program called “Show Up Stand Out”, a service operated by The Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants for D.C. families with students that are encountering attendance barriers. Through “Show Up Stand Out”, Boys Town can provide Care Coordination services for free.

Arthur Cooper, a Boys Town Care Coordinator, began working with the Lopez family.

However, they soon faced a problem. Junior and Zoila didn't speak English. Arthur didn't speak Spanish.

But with the resources available at Boys Town, that situation was put to rest quickly.

“The language/communication barrier with the Lopez family was never an issue thanks to the support here at Boys Town D.C. from my bilingual colleagues Laura Sana-Maria and Jacqueline Munoz-Atkins,” Cooper said. “Their commitment to help was the catalyst of servicing this family and helping remove any language barriers.”

And from there, Cooper was able to help the Lopez's overcome their truancy struggle.

“In order to help the Lopez family, we needed to find free before and after school care.” Cooper said. “By advocating for the family with the school social worker, we were able to receive a scholarship from Champions (a D.C. Public School before and aftercare program). Champions allowed Zoila more time to build informal and formal supports within the community to obtain employment and resources. They also taught Zoila how to write an excuse note for Junior, which helped the Lopez's navigate the attendance policy within D.C. Public schools.

One key aspect of Boys Town's Care Coordination is to link families to services they can continue to access after they graduate our program.

Arthur introduced the Lopez family to Briya, where Zoila started taking English speaking courses. He also took Zoila and Junior to a medical clinic near their home, because neither mom or son had ever seen a doctor. Lastly, the family was provided D.C. Metro cards for transportation. And, to top it all off, Junior received a special gift of a donated bicycle to encourage the family to spend more leisure time outdoors.

“The end result was a great team effort,” Cooper said.

“Ms. Lopez resiliency made the impossible possible,” he said of the family's success story. “Witnessing the family's development was life moving.”​