Perkins: Good school days start off with essentials at McKinney-Vento

Local organizations, including Carson Tahoe Health, have supplied new backpacks to Carson City School District’s McKinney-Vento Students in Transition program. McKinney-Vento special projects coordinator Christie Perkins, second from left, is pictured with Carson-Tahoe representatives Jennifer Brown, far left, Brittney Allen and Makayla Wadsworth.

Local organizations, including Carson Tahoe Health, have supplied new backpacks to Carson City School District’s McKinney-Vento Students in Transition program. McKinney-Vento special projects coordinator Christie Perkins, second from left, is pictured with Carson-Tahoe representatives Jennifer Brown, far left, Brittney Allen and Makayla Wadsworth.

  • Discuss Comment, Blog about
  • Print Friendly and PDF
Students’ success in school often depends on making sure they have a backpack to carry, the right pair of shoes on their feet or a gift card supplied with enough cash for a meal.
Christie Perkins, Carson City School District’s new special projects coordinator, is about making sure students who are experiencing hardships have what they need to get off to the right start for their school day.
Perkins provides support for the McKinney-Vento Students in Transition program and is responsible for providing resources to qualified families. McKinney-Vento assists children without a fixed, regular nighttime residence.
Perkins takes over the role from Peggy Sweetland, who retired.
The program provides basic items needed due to loss of housing or economic hardship to students who are living in hotels, motels, sleeping in vehicles, campers, parks, public spaces, substandard housing or other circumstances.
“Currently, we’re only a few weeks into the new year, but we have about 130 families who have qualified for students,” Perkins said. “Some families have multiple students in their homes, and most are doubled up with other families.”
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987, passed by Congress and reauthorized multiple times, has helped to establish several programs addressing emergency housing or shelter for vulnerable populations including the elderly, the disabled, families with children, Native Americans and veterans.
Parents, legal guardians or caregivers applying for assistance answer brief questions about where the student is residing, size of shoes or clothing needed, whether backpacks or supplies are needed and whether they would like the student to participate in the center’s annual events.
Perkins, although new to the role, is taking care to process each application for aid so she understands each student’s and family’s situation. But even though applicants technically must qualify, she said the district would never turn a family away if they’re in need. The recent wildfires and job loss so far are forcing more families to enter transit this school year, she said.
“I think we as a district want to help any student and family who needs help even if they don’t necessarily qualify for McKinney-Vento, but they need a backpack; we will provide a backpack,” she said. “We’re not going to say, ‘No, you have to qualify to receive this backpack.’ We have a surplus and we’ve helped families.”
She and some school social workers or staff members also have to work to update certain records to keep up with needs.
“Some families we’ve lost touch with in the last year, being disrupted a bit, so we’re reaching out to families that have previously qualified,” Perkins said.
While physical donations are appreciated, Perkins said there’s currently a surplus, although shoes are always requested by the families with students constantly growing out of what they have.
Gift cards and monetary donations are usually greatly desired to give students flexibility where needed, especially as the holidays come and McKinney-Vento prepares for its annual Holiday with a Hero event.
“What I’ve found in my experience as an administrator is kids want to pick out their own thing and they want their independence, and they don’t want me picking out their own stuff,” she said.
The gift cards also serve to help families shop for groceries and urgent items such as toothbrushes and toothpaste and to save on space for storage purposes.
“They don’t have anywhere to store a lot of stuff,” Perkins said. “Students in foster care sometimes are taken out of foster care except for the clothes they have on, so they like to feel like (the items) are new and it’s theirs.”
Also, with the holidays coming up, McKinney-Vento’s collection for its two large events isn’t just limited to donations. Volunteerism is also encourage, especially for Holiday with a Hero.
The Holiday with a Hero volunteer event involving law enforcement officials, first responders, military and other agency members partners students with an adult from an agency, and they’re given gift cards to buy gifts for loved ones.
In the spring, McKinney-Vento offers shoes through its Step into Spring program for students of any age from pre-kindergarten through the 12th grade.
Perkins said while there are difficult stories and situations, her plan is to stay in touch with those in need as much as possible and to connect them with the resources to make sure students are successful in the classroom.
“There is a lot of assistance out there … and my goal is to be visible in the schools and have a relationship with these students and their families,” she said.
Perkins has been a Nevada resident for more than 30 years. She came from the Washoe County School District, where she served on the administrative team that opened Kendyl Depoali Middle School in 2009 and eventually became its assistant principal. She also has served as Reno’s O'Brien Middle School dean of students, English teacher, department lead and student government adviser from 2003 to 2009 and worked as a long-term substitute at Swope Middle School in 2002-03. She has a master’s degree in educational leadership administration and supervision from the University of Phoenix and said she moved to Carson City with her family, enrolling her own daughters in the local school district.
“(I like being) in this capacity where I’m working with all the administrators and all the teachers on a global basis and just to be part of the whole community and see that progress of kids and families and see how I can best support them,” Perkins said.
To donate, send tax-deductible monetary gifts to CCSD Students in Transition, P.O. Box 603, Carson City, Nev., 89701. Physical items provided can help with graduation, scholarships, school supplies, hygiene item and other needs throughout the year. Gift cards provided in the amount of $10 to $50 to McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Smith’s, Walmart, JCPenney, Wendy’s, Subway, Savemart, Kohl’s and Ross are preferred to physical items and can be mailed to the above address.
Items also can be dropped at 604 W. Musser St. in Carson City.
For information, e-mail Perkins at, call 775-283-1537 or visit
Families in the Lake Tahoe communities with school-aged children who recently have had to evacuate and been displaced as a result of the wildfires also are encouraged to enroll their students through the Students in Transition program and can reach out to Perkins. Students can receive free breakfast and lunch and receive help with clothing needs and school supplies. Perkins said the goal is to help families who have been impacted by the fires return to a sense of normalcy. To date, more than a dozen families with students in the district have made contact.
“All of this isn’t the kids’ fault,” Perkins said. “I think to make it the best school experience they can have — if school can be that safe place they can have because other parts of their life are in turmoil where they know adults care about you – then that’s our ultimate goal, I would think. That’s my goal.”


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment