Helping Kids Who Can't Help Themselves: 5 places to get support for students that need it

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I'm going to touch on a difficult topic that, unfortunately, as a teacher in the inner city, I see far too often.  Teachers understand that students are unable to learn when they are not getting their basic needs met.  When they are worried about receiving proper food, clothing, or hygiene products, students have very little room in their heads for reading or math.  Navigating "official" routes through the various social workers, counselors, and psychologists can be very difficult, not to mention time consuming.  I know that when I see my kids in need, I want to help them now, not a month or two down the road.  It absolutely breaks my heart to see my kids struggling, so here are some resources that I have used in order to provide support to students who need it.

#5  Local Businesses

Local companies usually have funds available to donate to local schools and causes.  It can be scary to cold call a company and ask for things for your school, but the worst they can say is no!  We have had donations of school supplies, have them sponsor events, and even have them donate prizes for giveaways for good behavior or academics.

#4 Food Banks

Contact your local food bank and set up a food truck at the school.  We've done this in years past and it's been very successful.  The truck comes once or twice a month and passes out food to those in need.  We'd always make it an academic portion too, and have a reading workshop in the gym to teach parents reading skills to share at home.  Or have a math fair the same day where math games are being played.  Building a sense of community is paramount in an inner city school.  

#3  Facebook Sponsors

Working with students who often go without can be extremely heartbreaking, especially during the holiday seasons.  I worked with an amazing teacher who sought a way to fix that.  She reached out to her Facebook friends and family looking for people she knew to sponsor a kid.  These sponsors wrote back and forth throughout the kids throughout the year, and made sure that they got a gift at Christmas.  Nothing big or fancy.  Usually it was just school supplies, but the it was special to see the connections formed through these letters, and exciting for the kids to receive a gift that they otherwise may not have gotten.  It's a simple request to your friends and family who may be looking for ways to give back to the community and simply don't know how.  

#2 Local Churches

A few years ago, we had classroom supplies donated to us by a local church.  These supplies kept our classrooms running and fully supplied for the entire year.  My church that I attend sponsors a local elementary school and provides tutoring, supplies, and clothing to students there.  Sometimes all it takes is reaching out to churches and letting them know that there is a need.  A beautiful relationship can be built that will not only help the students, but also connects the community!

#1  Donorschoose.org


Many of us use this website in order to get materials for our classrooms, but Donorschoose.org can also be very helpful in getting food, clothing, and hygiene products into students hands quickly.  Donorschoose.org has created a separate category of project just for meeting basic needs of students.  I have created and had funded two of these projects.  One of my projects was to get nonperishable food into my classroom.  I found that kids came to school late after breakfast had been served and would be very hungry.  This project allowed me to have food on hand to pass out as needed.  My second project was for things like deodorant, toothbrushes, socks, and underwear.  I was very lucky to have both of my basic needs projects funded within a matter of days and had the supplies in my classroom within a week!  


Any more suggestions?  Let me know!

--Kaleigh VanderKamp
@vkshappykampers






by Kaleigh VanderKamp

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