WOODLAND — Woodland Public Schools introduces “Our Kids, Our Business,” a community task force dedicated to addressing the needs of under-resourced families and students in the Woodland community, with a kick-off meeting on Thu., March 16, from 7-8:30 p.m. in the Woodland High School Auditorium. The meeting is open to any interested parents, business owners, community members or other individuals who want to contribute.
Leslie Mohlman, community, student, family outreach and resource coordinator for Woodland Public Schools, created the new task force.
“We’re reaching out to the community to help identify the needs of our students and their families,” she said. “We want to connect our under-resourced families with services to provide assistance getting food, lining up medical insurance, settling into housing, finding a job, help with early learning and much more.”
Mohlman developed the plan to assist the many Woodland families who need help.
“Woodland receives less support when compared to other school districts in our area, and I want to remedy that,” she said. “Being located between Cowlitz and Clark counties means different agencies serve our community, so we have to coordinate their services to ensure we’re offering the needed resources to all members of our community who need them.”
Under-resourced families and students who qualify for the McKinney-Vento Education of Homeless Children and Youth Assistance Act, a federal law created to ensure the enrollment and educational stability of homeless children and youth, are Mohlman’s priority.
“Our goal is to connect the under-resourced families we serve with the organizations offering help in Clark and Cowlitz counties,” Mohlman said. “We want to help families line up jobs and get work so they may improve their lives.”
Mohlman not only assists families by connecting them with the resources they need, but also by working with them to create a plan to achieve their goals. She follows up with the families she serves by checking in frequently to make sure they’re getting the services they need and helping wherever she can. In her first few weeks with Woodland Public Schools, Mohlman has helped implement Food Pantries at TEAM High and Woodland High School where students and families can obtain free food provided by the Woodland Action Center. In the coming weeks, Mohlman plans to offer pantries and food distribution at both the Woodland Primary School and Woodland Intermediate School, too.
“Families don’t have to pre-register or qualify to receive assistance,” Mohlman said. “We want to encourage those in need get help without barriers.”
In addition, Mohlman plans to create other services in Woodland’s schools such as mentoring, tutoring and lunch buddies by using community volunteers.
“Small activities like these make a world of difference to our students,” she said. “We need members of the community to volunteer in our schools to help guide students and enrich their lives.”
Mohlman credits her own background for her ability to reach people, growing up in difficult family situations.
“I developed a natural ability to connect with people from different walks of life because of my own life experiences,” she said. “I want to empower people by helping them line up resources and setting goals in order to succeed.”
For three years, Mohlman worked for Clark College in Vancouver, helping connect students with basic needs such as housing and medical insurance. She decided to apply to be the executive director of the Woodland Action Center after seeing the results in her position at Clark College. While there, she developed the job training program and connected community members with local county resources. She also organized the recent Woodland Job Fair with support from Goodwill Industries and the Southwest Washington Workforce Development Council which attracted 40 different vendors and more than 300 attendees.
“I’m very passionate about the Woodland community, and I felt like I was doing so much good in Vancouver by engaging the community when I realized Woodland’s resources aren’t nearly as robust as other cities,” she said. “I just love the small community of Woodland, and I want to do what I can to help it thrive.”
Mohlman started working as the community, student, family outreach and resource coordinator for Woodland Public Schools earlier this year to develop and coordinate school resources to reach those in need.
“I know our community wants to take care of our kids and their families,” she said. “By partnering with the community, we can work together to ensure our under-resourced families get the help they need.”
All interested community members are invited and encouraged to attend the “Our Kids, Our Business” meeting on Thu.,, March 16, from 7-8:30 p.m., in the Woodland High School Auditorium located at 1500 Dike Access Road, Woodland. For more information on how you can help and to RSVP for the meeting, contact Leslie Mohlman via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.