SAN ANTONIO — South San ISD celebrated with a summer kick-off event today.
The larger purpose was to introduce families to the CARE Zone.
In one of the city's biggest at-risk communities, the CARE Zone is filling the economic and mental health gaps.
"We really try to meet our families where they need us," said Jose Guereca, Family Engagement Specialist with South San ISD.
The CARE Zone is housed in South San ISD in the old annex building at Athens Elementary. It opened in late 2019 and is the first of its kind in Texas.
"Coming from this school, I see a big difference," said South San alum, Evannite Vera. "I never had this."
The CARE Zone, made up of 5 social workers and 15 parent liaisons, began in order to meet the need for more mental health resources for high schoolers.
"We have Rise Recovery, we have Clarity out here, bereavement center is also out here," said Guereca. "Family service is also out here. We do individual counseling, group counseling, family counseling, couples counseling."
Creators decided to expand services to include a food pantry, clothing center and computer room where visitors can apply for SNAP benefits or Medicare and Medicaid.
The CARE Zone can also help with resume building. In partnership with Texas A&M, expectant moms and new moms can learn how to prepare for college in the "Baby Paws" room.
"We also help families with English/ESL classes, GED classes," said Guereca.
Best of all, it's free.
"You don't know what people go through. I've been through some things," said Karma Jade Ables, a 3rd grader and CARE Zone Ambassador. "One person, I'm not going to say the name, he lost his father. So he's in the program right now. He's made a big difference."
Her mother, Chelsea Longoria, is grateful help is there for parents, too.
"They've helped me as an adult, too. Whenever I couldn't get things for my daughters, they stepped in. Whenever I needed help, they'd talk to us," she explained.
Longoria says she's already witnessing positive change in her family.
"[Karma Jade] was going through a dark time," said Longoria. "She was not happy, and I see her light and I see her happiness back because she has somewhere to go and someone to talk to. It's amazing."
If a family isn't part of the South San network and needs help, Guereca says no one will be turned away.
"We definitely help them with food. Then what we do is start working with them to find services around their area so they don't have to drive all the way out here," said Guereca.
For the summer of 2022, the CARE Zone is looking for partners and organizations to help them put on sports camps for the children. If you can help, give them a call.
Funding for counseling in the CARE Zone comes from the San Antonio Mobile Mental Wellness Collaborative and South San ISD. All other resources are provided by partnerships and donations.
The CARE Zone is open Monday thru Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can reach them by calling 210-996-9148.