Six weeks into a recent school year, Communities In Schools site coordinator Donna noticed that Ricky*, a sixth grader she was working with had already been absent a total of 20 days.
It was enough of a red flag to prompt Donna to visit Ricky’s family. She found that, between Ricky and his younger brother, there was only one pair of shoes. That meant each boy attended school on alternating days – whenever it was his turn to wear the shoes. Immediately, Donna was able to get both boys new shoes and other essentials, allowing them to overcome one of many barriers that kept them from going to and performing well in school.
Heading into the holidays, when Americans will spend more on themselves and their families than at any other time of the year, it might be hard to imagine that students like Ricky and his brother struggle just to have just one set of clothes and shoes of their own.
According to National Retail Federation research, Americans would spend an average of $935.58 per person during the 2016 holiday shopping season. Candy, greeting cards, postage and flowers account for $207.07 of that total expenditure, enough to provide a winter wardrobe for an average teen boy.
But kids across the country like Ricky and his brother are living in a different reality. Data from the Southern Education Foundation showed that a majority of schoolchildren – about 51%– attending the nation’s public schools came from low-income families.
Lack of shoes and basic wardrobe is only a part of their challenge. Children can have difficulty concentrating on school work if they are hungry, cold, in need of medical or dental care or have trouble seeing the teacher.
Communities In Schools leaders and coordinators fill the gap by providing students with the essential resources they need to focus on their learning, and so teachers can focus on teaching.
During this season of giving, with a growing number of public school students now living in poverty and facing substantial challenges to stay in school, it only takes one person to make a difference in a student’s life. Click here to learn more about how you can help keep kids in school.
*The students name has been changed.
Original Story by Gary Chapman of the National office.