HENDERSON, Nev. (KLAS) — It is no secret that the pandemic has drastically impacted many families here in Southern Nevada, but for those who were already struggling, it made it even more difficult to move forward.
Normally teachers can connect with their students and pick up on signals that something may be wrong, but due to distance learning that has been a challenge.
As a solution, a local teacher assigned an essay asking students what they have experienced during the pandemic. She said one response, impacted her greatly.
Kristin Pohl has been teaching for nearly 15 years.
“The kids aren’t required to turn their cameras on, so I teach to dots a lot,” Pohl said.
Although distance learning has created some challenges, Pohl says some students have stepped up, and engaged in class.
“He was very open to ideas and was one of the first ones to turn his camera on, and participated in class a lot,” Pohl said.
Pohl is speaking about 11th grader JJ Rodriguez — a bright student with a deep interest in fashion. Amidst the pandemic, he planned a fashion show — the first one ever done at his high school.
“I noticed him a lot, but I was not at all prepared for the essay that he wrote,” Pohl said.
“I felt like I was asking and screaming for help, but nobody was listening,” JJ said.
In his essay, Rodriguez described how over the past year his family, including his mother and sister, were homeless and living in their car but trying to stay positive and push forward together.
“I tried to put on a strong face at school and make it seem like nothing was happening, because I didn’t want my friends to think bad about me,” said Nevaeh Jones, JJ’s sister.
“We were in the cold, like, there were nights where we would, have to open the car door and go to the bathroom,” added Alicia Green, JJ and Nevaeh’s mother.
To avoid being separated, JJ and his family temporarily moved in with a friend. In October, they received housing.
“Now we can finally breathe and put ourselves back together,” JJ said.
Despite this new stability, the family was still without mattresses, warm clothes, and furniture. After a little convincing, Pohl created a GoFundMe account for the family.
“Within 24 hours I had over a thousand dollars, it was pretty amazing,” Pohl said.
Now with help from the community, the family is focused on moving forward together.
“I don’t want my kids to give up ever,” Green said. “If they’re not going to give up, I’m not going to give up.”
Pohl is now trying to maximize these donations so she can continue to help families in the area. She says the donations she has received up to this point are from fellow teachers, and former students who she helped in the past and are now paying it forward.
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