Students credit Kim Riggs with success in school and life | NevadaAppeal.com

Students credit Kim Riggs with success in school and life

Teri Vance
Appeal Features Editor

Ilona Standridge had three children when her life crumbled in 1999. With no place to live, they slept in the back of a Blazer along the banks of the Carson River.

“I never wanted to end up there,” she said. “Things happen.”

During the day, the kids went to the Boys & Girls Club of Western Nevada, and the family ate and showered at Friends in Service Helping.

Ilona clung to every penny, feeding her fragile hope that they’d somehow beat the odds and make it out.

Seven years later, from the comfort of her Carson City apartment, she marks the blessings in her life.

Her oldest son, Shane, 19, graduated from high school last year and now works a full-time job in Las Vegas.

Matt, 18, is set to graduate high school this year and just bought his first car. Her 16-year-old daughter, Ashley, is maintaining a nearly straight-A average as a junior at Carson High School, and was a member of the school’s first culinary team to compete in the national competition last year.

When Ilona takes inventory of her success, she always gives credit to one woman: Kim Riggs.

“She was a rock for us,” Standridge said. “I don’t think my children would be where they are now if it wasn’t for Kim. She helped me with clothes, she helped me with school supplies.

“She was always there for me. It didn’t really matter what I needed, she was always there.”

For eight years Riggs served as homeless advocate for the Carson City School District. During that time, she fitted many students with new shoes, gave away thousands of backpacks filled with school supplies, and, through all the programs, bolstered student success.

“When you give them shoes or a backpack, it shows them someone in their community cares about them and is willing to help them out,” Riggs said. “If they’re not embarrassed about not having shoes or clothes, they can learn the value of having an education.”

Riggs’ relentless compassion emboldened her to knock on rows of motel doors to search out children in need of her services, and to approach strangers in the street to ask if their children needed school supplies or shoes.

“You learn to judge when situations are safe, or aren’t,” she said.

Riggs is leaving the school district this year to take a job with the Division of Child and Family Services.

“I love the school district, it’s not about leaving,” she said. “The district gave me the education I needed to move on.”

She tears up when she talks about moving on, but the sorrow turns to joy when she recalls her successes.

The Standridge family is one of those successes.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Riggs said. “What really gets you out of homelessness is the parents. The ones who really work to put their children first, like all parents should. Ilona did that.”

Even when parents weren’t willing to help, Riggs was. One girl in the program emancipated herself from her mother at 16.

Riggs helped her get a dress to wear to prom, and her son, Kyle Bacon, created a scholarship to benefit underprivileged students as part of his senior project. That girl was a recipient, and now attends Western Nevada Community College.

The scholarship has helped two other students as well.

“If you help children you change everything,” Riggs said.

Standridge already knows that.

“My kids have pride, they have respect.” she said. “They’re proud of who they are, what they’ve overcome and what they can achieve. That’s what Kim did.”

• Contact reporter Teri Vance at tvance@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1272.