D.C. parent of two, Kimberly Lightner, participates in pilot anti-truancy program, “Show Up, Show Out.” (Photo Courtesy of Lauren E. Williams)

At age 17, Kimberly Lightner bounced from a homeless shelter to a transitional housing facility with her two children. She was not sure where their next meal or heating source would come from.  Looking back at those days, she said that taking her children to school was not always the first thing on her mind. At times, her children missed whole days.

“My transition was a battle of fear,” said Lightner. “Sticking to a consistent routine was difficult for me.”

This all changed when her daughter, Taliyah Lightner, 9, walked into the guidance counselor’s office.  “She told on me,” Lightner said in a Sept. 9 interview with the AFRO. “She wanted to go to school.”

The guidance counselor then introduced Lightner to a caseworker and a pilot program that would eventually change her life.  Show up, Stand Out is a new multi-million dollar program by the D.C. Justice Grants Administration and seven community organizations, including Edgewood/Brookland Family Support Collaborative, Georgia Avenue Family Support Collaborative, Catholic Charities, East River Family Strengthening Collaborative, Collaborative Solutions for Communities (formerly Columbia Heights/Shaw Family Support Collaborative), Boys Town Washington D.C., and Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative.

The program, administered in 2012, helps parents like Lightner get their children to school.

Through one-on-one interaction with elementary and middle school parents, the initiative tackled truancy and related issues such as unemployment and homelessness.

Of the program’s participants, 98 percent were single parents, 78 percent were women, and 88 percent were African American. Over half did not view truancy as an issue, and all were D.C. public school parents.

A little over a year after the initial program ended, the initiative announced promising results during a press conference Sept. 10 at Browne Education Campus in Northeast D.C.  According to a press release:

* Seventy-three percent of students touched by Show Up, Stand Out in year one (the 2012-2013 school year) increased school attendance from the previous year (2011-2012).

* Seventy-nine percent of the students who received comprehensive services from Show Up, Stand Out in year one increased school attendance from the previous year (2011-2012).

* Seventy-six percent of student participants were not referred to the program the following year (2013-2014) for attendance problems.

Lightner is one of the program’s success stories. With assistance, Lightner found a permanent home and integrated a new morning routine to get her children to school. “That’s what the program does,” stated Lightner. “It lifts you up and helps you achieve your goals.”

After a successful year, “Show Up, Show Out” will now expand to include more than 45 elementary and middle schools to reach more than 4,000 students across the city. The hope is to reach more parents like Lightner.

“Our job is to educate children,” said D.C. Public School Chancellor, Kaya Henderson at the event. “We cannot do this if we don’t have them in our schools.”

As the press conference ended, the 26-year-old mother of two smiled at the audience through her tears. Fully completed with the program, she is currently a student at the University of the District of Columbia and both of her children are doing well in school.