For our latest What's Your Why Idaho, we had the privilege of sitting down with West Ada School District Social Worker, Shannon Shayne, and Community School Liaison, Kamille Peck. Both women have dedicated their careers to helping others and their authenticity shined throughout the whole interview.
Did you know that there are over 400 children in the West Ada School District that have been identified as homeless this early in the school year? Close to half of those students are unaccompanied youth that are left to shelters and couch hopping to make it through to graduation. Due to the current economy, these numbers continue to rise month after month. The number one priority in Shannon and Kamille’s role is to come alongside these homeless families to help them find opportunities to change their circumstances. Both women work closely with the local shelters, where they take routine tours of the facilities, and coordinate donations. With approximately 40,000 kids in the district, they now have three Community Resource Centers spread throughout West Ada County. Desert Sage, McMillan, and Peregrine Elementary all host Community Schools for assisting West Ada School District students and families. These centers are staffed with amazing School Liaisons and Social Workers; like Shannon and Kamille, where they work to have these rooms stocked with clothes, cleaning supplies, school supplies, and other various needed items.
With almost two decades of combined work experience, both women show a genuine admiration for one another. Kamille gloats that, “Shannon has been an amazing addition to West Ada School District, and has offered a fresh new perspective from seeing how Community Schools function outside our district.” Going on her eleventh year as a Social Worker and second year at Peregrine, Shannon says that it was her lifelong path, she just wasn’t sure what it was called. When asking her the WHY behind her work, she stated “Why not? If not me, if not you, who? If you see the need, fill the need. There are so many people that don’t have the family support system - if we can be a little piece of that system then so be it.”
Both of Shannon’s grandmother’s were orphans, so she grew up hearing about their life stories which sparked something in her heart early on. After navigating the poverty systems as a single mother, foster parent, and eventually adopting herself, she was able to experience first hand the difficulties of being abandoned as well. Shannon started out pursuing nursing, and at one point, even owned her own salon. Eventually, she found herself working as a Guardian ad Litem for kids in foster care and helped represent them in court. Shannon also set a goal of racing her son to graduation, and eventually did complete her Masters in Social Work. After college, she accepted a position with the Kuna School District, where she led the way for the first Community School and Resource Center. Her experience in Kuna has only enhanced West Ada School District’s efforts and it’s clear why she is highly beloved and respected throughout the community.
Community School Liaison, Kamille Peck, found herself pursuing Social Work for other similar and admirable reasons. When asking her the WHY behind her career, she stated “I’ve been there, I’ve lived it. I wanna help other people navigate it and I truly love to see people excel.” Kamille has 3 children with long term health needs, which forced her to learn about the medical system early on in motherhood. It was during this time that she realized how challenging it can be for families that do not have the proper resources or income to navigate the complicated health care system. Early in her career, Kamille found herself working as a Paraprofessional where she aided kids with cognitive delays. This is where she locked into her calling once again and was more confident than ever in her career choice.
With such a demanding job, I asked both women how they cope with the stress that their positions come with. To alleviate stress and relax, Shannon enjoys taking time to camp, garden, or fish, and is always finding time to spend with her family. Kamille is also heavily family orientated, and dedicates Sunday’s to no work or school for her Masters in Social Work. When it comes to mental health, both women have set boundaries in their personal lives and are consistently navigating the everyday challenges alongside the Community School’s support system.
It’s no secret that the last few years have created challenges for everyone in their own ways. Both women highlighted the phenomenal community partners and how they have helped fulfill the shifting needs. Kamille stated, “we get to see the good in the community, and how much good there actually is. It pours in. People want to give to our spaces because they know it’s staying in our community and we’re doing good with it.” Some of West Ada School District’s community partners include the GEICO Local Office, Boys and Girls Club, the Idaho Diaper Bank, and several other incredible organizations that allocate their time and money to assist those in need.
With the resource centers still growing and evolving, it’s been amazing to see the instant support from so many local corporations. The first Community School in West Ada School District started in August 2017, and was originally located in a classroom inside Peregrine Elementary. Through local community partnerships, they were able to expand to their new space in January 2020. McMillan and Desert Sage Community School launched in August 2018. Everything used as donations in these Community Schools comes directly from government grants and help from the surrounding community. This is why it’s so important to be aware of local needs and support by strategizing together.
Another amazing aspect of the Community Schools is the Leadership team and Parent Engagement Committee. Kamille is on McMillan’s Leadership Team where she meets with the Principal, different specialists, and a teacher from each grade. Together they work to identify students and families in need and how the group can improve their situations. Making judgment calls can be very difficult, so it’s important to have the proper team and resources in place. When discussing the last few years, both women noted that the “gap” families have been affected the most. COVID, and the recent downturn of the economy, has forced many families to navigate the welfare system for the first time. Issues like the societal stigma around food stamps can cause a lot of parents to struggle even asking for help. Shannon shared that these families need to “take the first step - these people need someone to say it’s okay, let me help you.”
If you’re looking for ways to help, both Kamille and Shannon stated that volunteering and getting involved with a local school is key. Donations are great but can only go so far. Dedicating your time to gain a new perspective in these schools, and witnessing first hand the struggles students and families are facing, is ever impactful. There are several volunteer groups such as Big Brother & Big Sister, Lunch Buddies, and others to check out and get involved with. You can find a nearby school at https://www.westada.org/.