McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act – Connections Program
The mission of the Connections Program is to provide academic and social/emotional support to students and families experiencing homelessness in Grand Prairie ISD.
The Connections Program provides support for over 1,000 students and families experiencing homelessness on all District campuses. The program operates year-round and is under the direction of the Connections Coordinator, Sonnia Ortega, with assistance from GPISD social workers. This program is a joint effort between the City of Grand Prairie and Grand Prairie ISD, and provides resources and services from Grand Prairie United Charities, the City of Grand Prairie, North Texas Food Bank, Brighter Tomorrows Shelter, and other social service providers "connected" to assist students and families in Grand Prairie.
Grand Prairie ISD, under the McKinney-Vento Act and the Texas Support for Homeless Education Program (TEXSHEP) grant, works to ensure the following for all identified homeless students and families in GPISD:
- Eliminate barriers to enrollment for homeless students so they are enrolled within two days of campus application.
- Provide for the physical needs of homeless students, including school supplies, free lunch program participation, and school uniforms (as necessary) so that they are in class upon enrollment.
- Provide abuse intervention as appropriate and report immediately.
- Provide appropriate educational interventions within two weeks of enrollment, including tutoring, after-school programs, and other special programs as appropriate.
- Paperwork will follow in-district student transfers (when requested and approved) within two days.
- Transportation will be provided as appropriate within three days of enrollment.
- Provide information about available school and community services to families within the first day of enrollment.
- Provide translated written GPISD required materials (Student Code of Conduct, school handbooks, etc.) within the first week of enrollment (Spanish materials within the first day).
- Parenting skills classes/consultations will be provided for homeless parents.
- Sensitivity education training for educators, school personnel, shelter staff, and other community agencies regarding the needs of children and youth experiencing homelessness and the rights of such children and youth under the McKinney Act.
For more information, contact the Social Work Hub: 972-522-7070 or the Connections Coordinator: 972-522-7060.
Degrees and Certifications:
Hello, My name is Sonnia Ortega I am the Connections Coordinator for GPISD. I received all of my degrees: Bachelor's in Social Work and Criminal Justice and my Masters with a Specialty in Mental Health from the University of Texas at Arlington. The first year I came to work for GPISD in 2013 I was substituting while I completed my Master's courses. I was requested as a permanent substitute for the Elementary Disciplinary Alternative Education Program. I absolutely love working with at-risk youth. There is no bad student only students that make the wrong choices. In 2014 I was hired into my current position of Connections Coordinator, working with families in transition. I help connect families with needs to resources in the community. I strongly believe that “ The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others.” –Mahatma Gandhi