.Nameplate February 2013 Issue
Executive Perspective                                 Page 47

 

Meeting Some Unmet Needs

for Kids   

 

BY DANIEL A. DOMENECH

 Daniel Domenech

We take great pride at AASA in our children’s programs and the work our staff does to support the education of the total child and promote leadership for healthy children and schools. We also operate the Urgent Need Mini-Grant Program, which is designed to provide for the immediate needs of children and families. This year the grants assisted victims of Hurricane Sandy.

The National Joint Powers Alliance is one of AASA’s School Solutions partners. The firm provides public school districts with access to national, competitively bid contract purchasing. Aware of our mini-grant program and not wanting the rest of the country to go without aid, NJPA contributed to those efforts. The Helping Kids Program provides assistance in each of the seven regions of AASA membership. This winter, seven grants were awarded thanks to NJPA.

One of those on the receiving end was the East Helena, Mont., Public Schools, where more than 50 percent of the lower elementary grade students qualify for free and reduced-price lunches. Knowing many children go hungry outside of school, particularly on weekends and during summer break, a group of teachers formed the Harvesting Hearts coalition. They started a program that provides a weekend meal to as many children as possible. Last year, with donations from the community, the East Helena staff was able to provide one weekend meal a month. At the start of 2012-13, available funds could only support two distributions of food. The school district was seeking funds to offer at least two feedings a month. The Helping Kids grant will help.

Winter Protection
For me, the name Cuba evokes fond memories. It was my birthplace. Consequently, I was delighted when Cuba Independent Schools, not in the Caribbean but in New Mexico, became the recipient of a Helping Kids grant. Ninety-eight percent of the student population lives in poverty in a cold area of New Mexico, and many spend hours on the bus traveling to and from school. Their families cannot always afford heavy winter coats the children need when waiting outdoors for their school bus to arrive. A Helping Kids grant will be used to purchase coats for those children.

Central High School in Rapid City, S.D., is the state’s largest and most diverse high school. More than 100 students have been identified as homeless and living in transitional or temporary housing situations. The school estimates that for every student so identified at least two more are in similar circumstances. Last year a group of Central High students decided to help their less fortunate classmates by creating the Cobbler Snack Shack for homeless students that went hungry for lack of regular meals. To date, the pantry has been stocked through donations that also provide for weekend food bags. The Helping Kids grant will allow the Snack Shack operators to continue to feed their hungry friends.

The Pattonville, Mo., community is in transition. Changing demographics and economic instability have resulted in a growth in student transience. Studies by the school district show a high correlation between multiple changes in school residence and low academic achievement. The community is committed to assisting families driven out of their homes who survive by staying in “budget” hotels, unable to move into more stable environments due to a lack of funds and a poor credit history. The district wants to create a pilot program that would fund families in need looking for residential stability. A Helping Kids grant will provide initial program support.

Health Needs
In Ware County, Ga., funds from Helping Kids will provide emergency medical, dental and vision care for school-age children with unmet health needs who come from families without financial resources. Similar support will go to the Hempfield School District in Pennsylvania Dutch country where one in four students comes from a home that falls under the federal poverty standards. And at the Downeast School in Bangor, Maine, where 93 percent of the students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, the Helping Kids funds will buy sneakers, warm clothes and batteries for hearing aids.

Helping Kids is only scratching the surface, but it sure will make a difference to the backs it is scratching.

Daniel Domenech is AASA executive director. E-mail:
ddomenech@aasa.org

 

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