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Local teacher draws from experiences with homelessness to support her students

Posted at 6:24 PM, Feb 05, 2024
  • First year West High teacher Magdalena Pantaleon didn’t have a typical high school experience. Often times she lacked basic necessities. Now as a teacher, she wants to make sure no student in her class feels that stigma. So she started a Carino Station stocked with items like wipes, hygiene products, socks, notebooks, and more.

First year West High teacher Magdalena Pantaleon didn’t have a typical high school experience. Often times she lacked basic necessities.

“I actually was homeless my first two years of high school,” she said.

Now as a teacher, she wants to make sure no student in her class feels that stigma. So she started a Carino Station stocked with items like wipes, hygiene products, socks, notebooks, and more.

“This idea started because I thought well what were things I needed as a kid. I wouldn’t go to school because I didn’t have clean clothes or I didn’t have any clothes, I didn’t have any socks,” Pantaleon said.

While it’s not a large portion of our homeless population, Lauren Skidmore — CEO of the Open Door Network — said youth homelessness is more common than you think. She said one of the difficulties in identifying it comes with the stigma and fear many teens feel.

“Youth hold that in, and they do their best not to let that affect them. But we see it every day, where youth are trying to just maintain a standard among their peers,” said Skidmore. “We know over the last 5 years, youth homelessness has increased significantly. We don’t if that’s whether due to more enhanced support of identifying youth that are homeless or if that’s the reality.”

According to the Kern County Network for Children, last year the Dream Center’s homeless outreach served 139 youth up to the age of 24. In total the center provided services to over 800 youth.

Skidmore said those with lived experiences like Pantaleon are vital to helping homeless youth and reducing the stigma that comes with it.

“I wanted to be an empathetic teacher. I wanted to be a teacher who when my students saw me they knew there was compassion and there was grace,” Pantaleon said.

If you are a teen experiencing homelessness, or know of someone, you can reach out to the Dream Center on 19th Street or The Open Door Network.


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