Out in the Cold: Homelessness & Academic Performance

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Photo courtesy of  Lexie Flickinger

Written by Courtney Battle

As the Fall season gets underway, days get cooler and our clothes get warmer.  We look forward to football and Thanksgiving, but we often forget about those who are less fortunate than us, and have no homes or families to go to during these times.  Homelessness itself is a very serious issue, but can be especially difficult for children.

According to this report, 1,258,182 homeless students were enrolled in American public schools during the 2012-13 school year.  Wrap your head around that number:  1,258,182.  Now imagine what that experience is like- you and your family having no place to live, and yet still getting up every morning to go to school.  Most of us probably could never imagine this life, but unfortunately this is a reality for more than a few kids.

On top of the larger issue of homelessness, one of its side effects are poor performance in school.  The stress alone of being homeless can have several detrimental effects on how a child does in school.  Homeless students are prone to learning disabilities, emotional-behavioral disorders, anxiety, and depression.  Make no mistake, children that live in happy, healthy homes can struggle with these issues as well, but are much less likely to.  A comfortable place to do your homework that has heating and cooling, food in the fridge, and shower to bathe in are all basic amenities that many students probably take for granted, but others would give anything for.

So what is being done to address this problem?  Children’s advocacy group First Focus and several other organizations are pushing their support for the Homeless Children and Youth Act, which would broaden the current definition of homelessness to include children who are temporarily staying in hotels, motels, or with others.  81 percent of homeless children do not fall under the current definition, therefore leaving them ineligible for certain services.

Across the country, Americans are taking notice well.  These Ohio students spent a night outside with few personal items to feel what homelessness is actually like, and raise awareness.  In San Francisco, the nonprofit Hamilton Family Center has a goal of raising $6 million over three years to add to city funding.  In addition, the organization plans to meet with schools with the highest homeless student populations to hopefully reach families before or right after they become homeless.

Community ONE believes that all children should have the right to excel.  It is our goal to expose students to people who have overcome various challenges, and still ended up with successful careers and lives, no matter where they came from or where they lived.

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Random Acts of Kindness

In the end, only kindness matters

Photo courtesy of SweetOnVeg.com

Written by Courtney Battle

Bullying.  It’s an issue that you have probably heard more about than you ever thought you might in the past few years.  Divorce. It can take its toll on anyone, but especially more on children that are involved.  Body Image.  Young girls are struggling with it more and more as images they see of how they ‘should’ look are plastered all over pop culture, television, and movies.  Abuse.  Outside of the classroom, and behind closed doors, it happens way more than we talk about. What do all of these issues have in common?  Students are bringing them to school every single day, carrying them on their backs, and in many cases, probably having no one to talk to.  But what if they did? What if someone showed them that they cared?

Adam Sherman, a teacher at Spoto High School in Hillsborough County, Fla. inspired this post with his recent post on Education Week.  One day in class Sherman noticed that one of his students was looking kind of down, and not really engaged.  He wrote him a note reading, ‘Are you ok?’ and simply put it on his desk, so not to distract any of the other students or bring attention to his gesture.  The student returned the note with his response of ‘No,’ and Sherman reassured him that he understood and was available if the student needed someone to talk to, and that was that.  It turned out the student’s parents were going through a divorce, and he wasn’t receiving the attention he needed at home, but that simple post-it showed the student that Sherman cared- and sometimes, that’s all we really need, right?

If you fast-forward, Sherman spoke to his class and after some brainstorming they came up with an entire program entitled To Be Kind, which ‘seeks to prevent bullying rather than react to it.’  Through social media compliments, positive messages stuffed in lockers, and other gestures, they implemented a ‘culture of kindness,’ at their school and inspired others to do the same.  So now, we would like to take it a step further.

What if acts of kindness took off like the #ALSIceBucketChallenge?  What if people remembered to be kind as often as they check their cell phone in a day?  What about kindness as routine as your daily Starbucks fix? We are inspired by Sherman and his students, and encourage you to get out there and perform a random act of kindness for someone today.  Let us know how you’re spreading kindness around the world, too!  Take a picture, tag @communityoneinc on Twitter with the hashtag #RAK this week and remember, no matter how small you think it is, it could make a huge difference.

Community ONE knows the power that one person has to impact another, and we strive to do so in the programming and activities we provide to students.  We all can do our part in some way, so get in on it today!

Healthy (and Fun!) Back-to-School Lunches

5th grader school lunch in Lunchbots Quad box

Photo courtesy of http://www.anotherlunch.com

Currently, 6 to 9 percent of all households do not have access to healthy food and 30 million people in the United States live further than one mile (10 miles in non-metropolitan areas) from a large grocery store.’

– A recent report by Enterprise Community Partners

Written by Courtney Battle

Did you know there is a food desert problem in the US?  Food deserts-not to be confused with desserts- are defined as ‘parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas,’ according to the American Nutrition Association.  The ANA goes on to say that these deserts usually exist because of a lack of grocery stores, farmers markets, and the like.   It may be difficult to imagine a world in which the grocery store or your local farmer’s market is more than a few minutes from your home, but the reality is that countless families are living in areas that have no grocery store in sight, but instead fast food, quickie marts, and other places that only carry processed, and sugary foods.  In fact, a recent report by Enterprise Community Partners tells us that ‘currently, 6 to 9 percent of all households do not have access to healthy food and 30 million people in the United States live further than one mile (10 miles in non-metropolitan areas) from a large grocery store.’  This lack of nutritious options plays a direct role in the food that shows up on the dinner table, and the lunches that your child takes with him or her to school.

What’s being done to address this problem? Initiatives like the Arcadia Mobile Market in DC, and Beaumont, Texas’ Get Fresh Beaumont are popping up all over the country to bring fresh, healthy foods to low-income communities and places that aren’t located in proximity to a large food provider or farmer’s market.  It’s important that these foods translate into healthy lunches for students.  So to take it a step further, we have (with the help of Pinterest) rounded up a few examples of good-for-you options that your kids can take with them to school.

 #1 Sandwich Kabobs:  A kid-friendly take on the traditional kabob, you can see more on this lunch here.

#2 Fiesta!:  To change it up a little from the normal PB&J, this Mexican-themed lunch will make all your child’s classmates jealous!

 #3 Homemade Spaghettios:  You can’t go wrong with this healthier take on a classic, paired with some fruits and veggies on the side.

 #4 Turkey/Provolone/Lettuce Roll Up:  Wrap it up!  This lunch is a win-win for your student.

#5 Baked Chicken Fingers:  ‘I don’t like chicken fingers,’ said no kid ever!  You don’t have to feel guilty about this baked version, and your child will love them too!

Community ONE believes that students can excel at whatever they put their mind to, but it starts at home.  Happy, healthy students will be more successful in and outside of the classroom.  These lunches are just one step you can take to ensure that your child is prepared to excel in everything he or she does.