Newhouse’s school is one of the most unique, innovative programs we’ve created throughout our history. We are the only shelter in Kansas City that offers an onsite school, making all the difference for many families and kids who spend their time with us. At the school’s helm? Erin Wilson, Newhouse’s founding School Teacher. With her 25+ years of experience as a certified elementary and special education teacher, Erin built the Newhouse school program from the ground up. Today, Erin continues to innovate and impact the next generation. “I would do anything for the kids,” she says. Meet Erin.
Erin grew up in the Kansas City area and attended Avila University. During a college education class, she discovered her heart for kids at-risk after visiting a state school. “That’s when I knew . . . this is what I want to do.”
Erin earned her degree in elementary and special education and then went to work for several schools, mostly in alternative settings. In 2012, a friend who worked for Newhouse contacted her about a teaching job for the brand new school the shelter. Erin jumped at the opportunity.
School resources were scarce in the beginning days, but Erin was determined to ensure kids had access to books, computers and necessary school supplies.
“Now, I’m so proud to see that as an agency, we are so invested in the kids’ programs just as much as the adult programs,” she says. “Everyone, staff and community, are investing in resources and really helping out.”
A Relational, Safe Space
Kids who live in domestic violence shelters are often bullied at public school.
Additionally, kids can be two to three years behind grade-level wise in school and struggling due to trauma, abuse, learning disabilities, substance abuse and different diagnoses like autism and ADHD.
That’s why Newhouse’s onsite school is so critical. Erin works directly with the children’s therapists, children case managers, and parents in a team-approach to individualize the children’s learning and development programs.
“Other kids find out and make fun of shelter kids because they have to take a cab to school.” Additionally, it’s unsafe for children be alone in a cab with an unknown adult.
“In our small environment, the kids don’t have to hide who they are anymore,” she says. “They don’t have to hide that they can’t add or they can’t read. They can be themselves, and we are all here to help.” We are about empowering the children and educating them so hopefully they can break the cycle of violence.
Empowering the Next Generation
Group work creates greater self esteem for the kids at the shelter. For example, the children’s team at Newhouse enjoys celebrating all occasions like birthdays and holidays to the max.
Newhouse children’s teams also utilize DBT, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, an evidence-based treatment to help equip children who struggle with big feelings to manage their behaviors.
School’s constant presence in the children’s life is vital.
“Every day, their teacher is there,” Erin says. “There is security and comfort. Education is so key to breaking the cycle of violence. Kids can then get jobs and have economic security. It can give them a sense of power or control over their own life.”
Her passion for domestic violence
“Domestic violence can touch anybody, and it affects everybody,” she says. “I would love people to see Newhouse and understand how much of a difference our staff makes with residents.”
“The most wonderful part about being at Newhouse has been the team-approach. We all design the program together; we’re never alone. We have amazing direct service staff. When we’re struggling, the team is there to help support each other.”
Outside of work, Erin enjoys spending time with her family and nieces. She loves breaking out of escape rooms, volunteering at shelters and her favorite place is, by far, the beach. As for her hobbies? Sand volleyball, and during the covid pandemic, she has been learning how to crochet.
Thank you, Erin, for being a valued and critical member of Team Newhouse. We are grateful for your dedication, innovation and passion for changing lives and the next generation during your time here. We look forward to all the ways we’ll continue to #breakthecycle, together.
Meet more members of Team Newhouse here.