Article by Debbie Lewis (photo by Melissa Corker)
One of the things I love about working at the California Department of Education is the desire and opportunity of the staff to collectively make a difference in the world around us. I want to thank everyone for their participation in the April sock drive. CDE raised 512 pairs of socks contributing to the Project680 grand total of 2,725 pairs of socks. I also wanted to share with you a snapshot of a conversation I recently had with Charlene Hunt, Resource Teacher and Homeless Liaison, Folsom Cordova Unified School District (FCUSD).
Charlene told me a story about one rainy day in the 2003/04 school year when a kid came in and asked for another pair of socks to keep his feet warm. From the top, his shoes looked to be in good condition, from the bottom however, there were holes in his overly worn soles. This too familiar exchange inspired the first community shoe event which consisted of asking friends, family, and local community groups to donate gift cards for shoes.
Subsequent drives for shoes, socks or underwear have been held yearly. “The need for basic essentials is great among these kids. Physical Education teachers have reported that kids will choose poorer grades over the embarrassment of changing clothes revealing their often ill fitted or ragged undergarments. Items donated keep the kids warm and protected so they can focus on academics rather than discomfort and shame. For kids, receiving essentials like socks, underwear and shoes let’s them know that they are cared for, not just equipped with the basics of education.”
The most encouraging part of our discussion was when she shared how liaisons watch over these kids throughout their educational years. In the course of the last 11 years, the academic performances and attentive engagement of hundreds of students have increased. And each year since the program started every single senior with the exception of 2 kids has graduated high school. Our district liaisons stay connected with the kids until they get to college or a vocational school. Clearly intervention makes a difference to help these impoverished yet gifted and talented kids finish school.
When asked for a quote about project680, the catalyst for our CDE sock drive, Charlene spoke of the founder Ryan Lundquist. “He observed the need, listened with his heart and shared the need with friends who listened with their hearts. They simply spread the word and put it out there.” Thank you for listening with your heart CDE.
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