Students and staff at Futurus High School in Centralia are putting together an all-encompassing resource fair later this month, designed to connect people with services ranging from early learning to substance abuse to mental health to pediatric care to housing.
“It’s not just the homeless population, but any population that’s in need,” said James Bowers, the school’s principal. “And it is not just for students, it’s for any age that needs assistance. It’s for the whole community.”
The resource fair is scheduled for 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. May 30 at Centralia Middle School. More than 30 vendors — ranging from healthcare providers to social service organizations to government agencies — are slated to be in attendance.
“We really lacked (an event) that is for all audiences, all different age groups, all different needs,” said Katie Strozyk, behavioral health program coordinator with Lewis County Public Health and Social Services, which is helping organize the event. “With the targeted events we normally have, there can be some stigma people are worried about. With this being such a broad event, everybody can come. … Having such a wide range of resources, it enables individuals to come and talk as community members.”
This event is the school’s first attempt at a resource fair, and Bowers said he hopes it will be successful enough to make it a regular offering. Steve Warren, who teachers science and math at the alternative high school, said the fair will represent the culmination of many of the things students have been learning this year.
“Our students have worked and learned together this year about some of the emotional stressors that they have faced and that others face,” he said. “To be involved in pulling together the kinds of resources that folks with those challenges need will be awesome.”
For the school, it’s an opportunity to provide students with the community service hours they need for graduation, while also providing them with an opportunity to learn more about the needs in their community.
“There’s always a lot of fear when you start something new and nobody’s ever seen it happen,” Bowers said. “Once the students start to see something like this happen, and it is having an impact for the positive, I think it’s going to spread by word of mouth. ... I’d like to see the community view an alternative high school as a viable place for any sort of community help.”
In addition to its wide-ranging nature, Strozyk said the resource fair will also provide value because the Centralia School District reaches many families and individuals that other organizations do not.
“Centralia School District has such a broad touch of being able to connect with families and community members that we can sometimes lack as a government agency,” she said.
Last week, many of the 50 or so students at Futurus spent several days at the Cispus Learning Center in East Lewis County, sleeping in cabins and doing trust-building activities like a ropes course and zipline. Many students said the trip brought them closer to their classmates, forcing them to get to know students with whom they had not previously been close.
“I didn’t exactly like some of the people going, but after spending time with them and learning how to trust them, I definitely made some room for them in my heart,” said Tye Arnold.
Educators said they’ve seen that newfound trust throughout the student body. And some students believe that experience will prove beneficial when moving on to service events like the resource fair.
“We all kind of got a deeper understanding for others, and we learned that everyone has their own story and everyone’s going through their own stuff,” said Maria McLaughlin. “We learned not to be so quick to judge others. That will come in handy when helping people outside of the school.”