Connecting with Community to Combat Chronic Absenteeism

By Sheena Lall, Director of Learning Innovation and Social Emotional Competency, Talent Development Secondary
March 3, 2024

Manzano High School’s Family Resource Night

Last week, we had the opportunity to attend the Family Resource Night at Manzano High School (MHS) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was an inspiring example of how schools can create meaningful connections with families and communities to address chronic absenteeism. 

Melissa Melfi, Community Schools Coordinator at MHS, describes how Manzano’s attendance team’s efforts to identify and address root causes of chronic absenteeism led to the idea for a family resource night:

“Students and families/caregivers were having issues with numerous obstacles outside of the school day, such as medical needs, unemployment, food needs, financial aid, and immigration procedure needs. We reached out to those resource organizations that could assist both our students and families/caregivers to help them to not only overcome their fear of asking for help, but help meet their needs. Our goal for our Family Resource Fair was to help students and families/caregivers overcome the obstacles that were leading to their chronic absenteeism, and we are confident that the resources that were provided did and will continue to help our students to come to school.”

Manzano’s student success team collaborated with over 15 community organizations to bring resources directly to their campus. And teachers helped promote the event in their classes, including by offering a donut party for the class with the most participation.

Manzano invited not only MHS families and caregivers, but also families and caregivers from their feeder schools to participate. Attendees had access to options for clothes, food, shelter, utility payment relief, mental health care, and many other needs that were going unmet in the community.

Families and caregivers enjoyed a meal while Ben Barlow, Director of Attendance Supports, welcomed attendees and provided pertinent information on Albuquerque Public Schools’ attendance initiatives. Families and caregivers were invited to tour tables that each offered different types of resources and support. Alongside 20 community organizations, MHS also hosted three tables – one to connect families/caregivers to school counselors to discuss academic and behavior needs, one providing students information about how to make up courses needed to help them graduate on time, and a table where the MHS Skateboarding Club recruited students to be involved in after school activities. There were raffle prizes for attendees, and students’ home schools were provided with information that can be used to follow up with families.

In an inspirational example of how a night like this can impact lives, two mothers who arrived at the event unemployed started new jobs the next morning. 

Student Success Systems in Action

MHS’ family resource night provides a real world demonstration of how the four components of student success systems work together to identify and address student needs. With chronic absenteeism sweeping the nation, MHS’s efforts offer actionable ideas other schools can act on to increase attendance by addressing root causes. 

The concept for the night itself arose from analyzing holistic, real-time, actionable data to identify root causes, for which a resource night is one part of the student success team’s strategic response plan. The resource night reflects the culmination of building and nurturing strong, supportive relationships with students, families and caregivers who share their needs with school staff. Collaborative events like this also foster strong relationships with community organizations, which in turn provide key resources to families. By providing a safe space for families and caregivers to access resources, regardless of their personal situations, Manzano is able to develop trusting relationships with families that provide a foundation for working together to ensure students attend and are engaged in school. And thanks to the shared set of mindsets among adults in the school building and the larger community, the students, families, and caregivers of Manzano High School know that they are not alone.

Community Organizations Included

PNM – Providing families/caregivers with resources for delinquent utility payments.

NM Human Services – Providing families/caregivers with access to Medicaid, SNAP, Water assistance, TANF and Energy Assistance application portal.

Locker 505 – Providing for students and families/caregivers in need of clothing and school supplies.

McKinney Vento – Providing unhoused students and families/caregivers with housing and basic living needs.

Title I Family Engagement – Providing resources that Title I provides for any needs families/caregivers might have.

Bernalillo County – Providing students and families/caregivers with seminars, events, and job fairs hosted by Bernalillo County.

UNM Health Student Health Center – Providing students with healthcare needs, including and a shot clinic.

Hiring Hub of NM – Providing students and families/caregivers with employment opportunities with The City of Albuquerque.

Monterey Baptist Church – Providing students and families/caregivers with faith-based opportunities and organizations.

Shine ABQ – Providing families/caregivers with their program “Getting Ahead” to help with Financial Literacy, employment, and life stability.

Goodwill Industries of NM – Providing students with career pathways training, employment opportunities, and retail store resources.

Simpson Swimming – Providing students and families/caregivers with free swimming lessons at the Jewish Community Center.

Wings for Life – Providing services to students and families/caregivers who are experiencing family members who are or have been incarcerated.


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