No child should ever have to stay home from a field trip because he or she doesn’t have the money to go with classmates, said Mark Ford, executive director of The Love Akron Network. Nor should a child feel embarrassed because there is no parent or grandparent to come to special events at school, said Ford, while fighting back tears at The Love Akron Network annual awards breakfast, held earlier this week.
Ford announced the Adopt-a-School program, which bands together community members to provide resources for students, like clothes, school supplies and playground equipment, among other items. The first recipient of the program is Findley Community Learning Center in North Hill. About 50 percent of Findley students speak English as a second language, and the North Hill neighborhood is home to seven different nationalities, who speak 17 dialects.
“We’re committed to doing whatever we can to engage the full community,” said Ford, who brought Findley students onstage during his presentation. The program was inspired by the Be Undivided program, which has made tremendous strides lifting up Roosevelt High School in Portland, Ore. Kristine Sommer, program director of Be Undivided, told attendees that schools in every city have children whose entire lives are filled with obstacles. And it’s not just financial poverty that plague these young people, she said. “It is a poverty of hope that seems so devastating.”
But her program has worked to write a “new story” for Roosevelt students, which includes clothing, mentorships and new equipment for the athletic teams.
One student wore size 17 shoes, which had holes in them, and because he was ashamed to get his feet wet when it rained, he would just not go to school on rainy days, said Sommer, who added that once the group was able to provide him with a new pair of shoes, his attendance drastically improved. After five years, the school’s graduate rate and attendance have increased 15 percent, and enrollment is up 25 percent.
To contribute to the Adopt-a-School program or to donate to The Love Akron Network, visit www.loveakron.org.