DALLAS — In the five years Ashley Marshall has been managing her small team in the Homeless Education Program, she has seen countless examples of students’ lives being transformed for the better by the program.
During the 2022-2023 school year, Marshall said about 4,300 Dallas ISD students were coded as homeless, which could mean they were sleeping in hotels, cars, or shelters. The HEP team not only works alongside those students to ensure they have uniforms, hygiene supplies, and backpacks, but they also reach out to the students’ families to provide them with education and additional support.
Marshall said her favorite memories come from seeing the impact they make, even when it may “feel small.”
She recently worked with a senior who was living in a shelter in Fort Worth and was not connected with his mother. Marshall and the student developed such a positive connection that he began sending Marshall and one of her teammate’s photos of his accomplishments, from his artwork to his football trophies.
“I feel like I am his mom, and now he can say, ‘These are two women who can be proud of me when my mom is not here,’” Marshall said. “Our students just want someone to look at them and say, ‘I see you, and I’m going to help you try to get through this.’ That means so much to them.”
The effect Marshall and her team have had on students and their families over time is incalculable.
“I’ll be the person that cries right away when I tell some of the stories of the kids and the families we’ve helped,” Marshall said. “I don’t think anyone really understands until you have a mom saying you are the first people who have tried to help her. They’ve been trying to get along in daily life and make it through, and we are the ones who help them do that.”
Marshall’s passion and commitment never waver, something that her colleagues see and appreciate.
“Ashley is one of the most caring, knowledgeable, thinking-outside-the-box, and going-the-extra-mile type of people I know,” said Yadira Coggins, a case manager with the Homeless Education Program. “She has carried and grown this program throughout her years of service. Because of Ashley’s empowerment and growth mindset, our team has done incredible things when working with our students and families experiencing a homeless crisis situation.”
While Marshall is proud of her team’s achievements, she said the work is never finished. The most important message she wants to spread to the Dallas ISD community is awareness of the Homeless Education Program and the resources available to students and families in need.