Thursday, September 20, 2007

You Must Be Present to Win

I have a niece named Kelsey. She graduated from Vassar and is blessed with intelligence and a caring heart. After she finished her college education, she wanted to give two years of her time to others. She narrowed it down to the Peace Corp or Teach America, an organization that rescues failing schools. She chose Teach America. Her first year was extremely challenging. She had no resources for her class [like enough desks (!), text books (!)] She stuck it out with help from people like Bill Rush and his fabulous wife Rhonda whose Key Club adopted Kelsey's cause. Some of my husband's coworkers didn't even hesitate to send checks. Mary Anne Parks Antonio and Sue Hengel pitched in as did other caring friends (sorry if I failed to mention anyone who lovingly contributed). Kelsey had to battle a grueling environment, parents who were uninvolved, and sometimes emotional challenges from constantly fighting an uphill battle.

She again came out with a request for help this year. Her story is so compelling:
I am just starting my second year with Teach for America. I'm teaching high school chemistry and physical science at a public charter school in what is arguably the most dangerous city in the U.S., St. Louis. The public school system in St. Louis had fallen into such horrible condition that it lost its accreditation at the end of last year and was taken over by the state. With the public schools in disarray, students are flocking to charter schools, even though these schools have their own set of problems. This is the third year that the charter school I work at has been open and its plagued with disorganization, debt, and lack of resources.

Nearly 90% of our students are on free or reduced lunch plans. Gang violence, poverty, teen pregnancy, disrupted family situations, pressure to be involved in crimes, and low expectations for achievement are realities that my students live with everyday.

I've had students who have been arrested, ended up pregnant, been left homeless, been shot, and been killed. Academically, the students come to me with math and reading levels well below grade average. Their previous schools have failed them.

Even the extremely bright students are at a considerable disadvantage when competing for college admission with students across the country who went to successful schools. Once they get to college, the students will be ill-prepared for the academic demands of higher education.

I have to try to pull them up to grade level and lead a science class that is on par with science classes in the best school districts in the country. However, my school doesn't have a science lab or budget for obtaining supplies to use in my classroom.

Anything that I need for my classroom comes out of my own pocket.

It's definitely worth the investment if it helps the kids learn but I would appreciate any help with obtaining the basic school supplies that my students can't afford and which help make my classroom a much more hands-on and engaging learning environment.

Thank you for your help!


Kelsey's Wish List:

Hi Sharon! Here's the list of school supplies I need if anyone you know is still willing to help me out this year.

Simple calculators
Index cards

Dry erase markers
Colored pencils


Elmer's glue



1-inch binders

Binder dividers
Notebook paper

Construction paper

omputer paper
Thanks for your help!
Love, Kelsey

Again, the Sue Hengel's and Mike Moss's of the world as well as the ever-giving Mary Anne, stepped up. And there are probably more who have been quietly stepping up to the plate. I am so lucky to be surrounded by friends who take on the needs of my family as their own. Thanks, guys. And thank you, Kelsey, for caring enough to put away a chance to earn big bucks in order to invest in our teenagers. You are the best.

1 comment:

Vikki said...

I would love to help...what is Kelsey's address and I will get together a goody box and put it in the mail to her.