Elizabeth Richard: “You can’t help but care”

Elizabeth Richard (Our York Media)

A child might miss school because he or she doesn’t have an alarm clock. That kind of need is easy to meet, says Elizabeth Richard.

But, there are more serious reasons without simple fixes. For instance, a student misses school because of challenges at home, like having the utilities turned off. Or, perhaps, a kid having to take on adult responsibilities, like caring for a baby.

“I used to think students who missed school just didn’t care,” Elizabeth says. “I don’t think that way anymore.”

You’ll often find her at William Penn Senior High School or Northeastern High School, working alongside students she calls “mini social workers.”

“You just have to be patient and be there for them. Sometimes, no one else is.”

As the Youth Court Alliance Director, Elizabeth has spent the past four years listening to students in the Youth Court, an after-school program that diverts students from magisterial court, where parents would face a truancy charge and fine.

Instead, truant students share their stories with their peers who run a hearing and determine an outcome. At the end, that outcome encourages them to become better community members – often through community service. Last year, the Youth Court saw 160 students come through the program.

“You just have to be patient and be there for them. Sometimes, no one else is,” Elizabeth says.

And that’s where you see Elizabeth going beyond her job description. She shows up at the sporting events, for poetry readings, and graduation. She’s even the godmother of one student’s child.

“I think if you got in there and interacted with these kids, you can’t help but care,” she says.

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