Carver Elementary is just 1.6 miles up the road from our church. I’ve passed it countless times, it’s a little set back and it’s a nice brick building. Honestly, I usually pass is without a 2nd thought. Inside that school are over 600 students and more than 50 teachers. 82% of those students come from low-income families, and although the school as a whole is rated as “average” for academic progress on greatschools.org, it also reports that test scores are falling way below average and almost 50% poorer performance than the state average. What does that mean? It means there are some serious concerns!
I don’t believe the families don’t care and I don’t believe the teachers aren’t doing their jobs (in fact several of both come to our church). I don’t think these kids just aren’t smart. When you are hungry, are you able to concentrate? When there are holes in your shoes and your clothes are all faded – do you feel good about yourself? Poverty has many side effects, and one is a major blow to confidence and self-worth and it becomes a cycle when the kids don’t have the opportunity to see anything different modeled for them.
The school is currently without an operating PTA (parent-teacher association – normally responsible for fundraising, event organizing and school spirit among other things). The red flag for me here, is not that the parents or school are failing, its that we as a community have not been aware of how small actions on our part can make a big impact! Some of the families don’t have the time or even the skill set to provide for their students. We have the ability to empower children, support families, encourage teachers and make an impact on our community – a community that we HAND PICKED to be a part of.
Teachers’ resources are stretched thin. The supply kit cakes we put together and donated were very well-received and cards and words of gratitude were returned. We helped in part to fill the gap where families couldn’t afford to provide all the supplies for the classrooms. Good Sam community has also sent tutors and mentors over the years that directly impacted student and we’ve begun to create the opportunity for ongoing relationships. Continuing to show up as a community and being a presence at Carver will help to show these kids that they are loved and supported and give them room to have dreams! Let’s continue to step up and step in, not taking the place of parents and teachers, but coming along side them.
Maybe your own time and resources are stretched thin, but if you can do nothing else you can pray for this community every time you drive by it or through it on your way to church or work or just driving around town. Take a look around your home and assess what you could give of your possessions. That gently used kitchen item that may even still be in the box (I’m looking at you salad spinner and quick chop), those toys your kids have that they never play with, that white elephant gift you got at the office party and stuck in the back of the closet. Those shoes you bought that you wore once or anything else gently used in your closet. If you are ready to take that next leap of faith and deepen your personal connection to this community – assess where your time and talents can be of service.
What one thing in the list below excites you? Maybe you can’t personally help – but we are a community and you might know someone who can!
Tutoring – Ongoing, working around volunteers schedule to work with struggling students
Mentoring – Mondays 3-4:30 pm group meeting and projects, but they do need 1:1 mentors for kids in the program.
Holiday Helping Hands – Families are selected to participate by the school. “Helping hands” 1) collect gently used items for babies to adults household clothes and toys as well as NEW toys; 2) help sort and set up Nov 30th 3-6 pm; 3) Dec 1st 9am-1030am families pick gifts and can wrap them while kids play and volunteers help with all of this. After the event, volunteers help clean up.
Family Fitness Night – Oct 25th – This event gives families the opportunity to play together in an outdoor PE class. All activities are organized and extra adults are needed to help monitor stations.
Career Day – First Friday in May. This event gives 3rd – 5th graders the opportunity to meet and talk to community members about a variety of career paths. Volunteers will get breakfast and lunch.
Guest Readers – Do you have 30 minutes of an hour during the school day to come and read to a classroom? There are two weeks a year where volunteers are needed throughout the day to read to students: “American Education Week” in November and “Read Across America” in February.
Teacher Appreciation – Anything we can do throughout the year would be awesome! But especially during teacher appreciation week in May – extra hands are needed to help decorate teachers’ doors. Other ideas are bringing in a box of donuts or providing a light lunch.
Feed the Families (summer)- This program provides supplemental food for families during the summer months. Each summer we assist St Mary’s Caring in the partnership with the schools in collecting items to be given to families.
These are initiatives we have participated in with Carver for up to three years. We know there is more to do to give these kids a chance to dream big and see those dreams come to life. What’s the next way we’ll connect?
–Kelly Thurber, Good Sam Mission and Engagement Coordinator