For the vast majority of American children — and their parents — back to school time is a time of eager anticipation and excitement when students will be reunited with their old friends who they may not have seen since the last day of school and to start to make new friends.
But sadly, for many children in distressed Appalachian communities, it’s time of worry and fear of embarrassment in the knowledge that it is highly likely they will be showing up for the first day of school without the required school supplies they need to do their complete their classwork and when the teacher tells them to take out their pencils and paper, and they have neither.
However, thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans®, each year for the past several years we have been able to provide thousands of children with all the pencils, notebook paper and notebooks, and the other “tools for school” they need to get off to a successful new school year.
This year our goal is to provide 6,000 school kits to children throughout Appalachia in states including Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, and new for this year we have expanded the program into Mississippi, one of the poorest states in the country.
Ackerman, Mississippi, (pop. 1,500) is home to Ackerman Elementary School in the Choctaw County School District, where the median household income is less than $22,000 and roughly a quarter of the people live below the poverty line; the number increases to more than one-third for those under 18.
In her request for 500 school kits for her students, Principal Samantha Kelly told us that “A lot of students don’t have the items they need to be prepared for school” when it begins its new academic year on Monday, August 23.
“The need is that as a school we are usually expected to provide supplies such as crayons, pencils, glue, etc., to students because a lot of the students don’t have the ability to bring their own school supplies. A lot of our families are lower-income and our poverty rate for our African American students and their families is close to 60 percent,” said Samantha.
She explained that the problem is exacerbated by the high poverty rate in the community, the lack of education beyond high school of their parents, and the lack of job opportunities in the area.
To determine those most in need of the school kits, teachers and administrators will base recipients on those who qualify for government assistance, and after those are taken care of, they will move on to others in need.
“We will give students supplies based off need and those who are unprepared when school starts,” says Samantha.
Without the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® who are making it possible for us to provide the school kits her students need “teachers would continue to spend money out of their pocket to provide the supplies needed for students.”
Such is also the case in rural northeastern Tennessee where our longtime partner Of One Accord last year distributed school supplies to 400 elementary and middle school students and will be distributing hundreds more again this year.
“We hear firsthand through many of the teachers who have students who come from poverty-stricken homes…or homeless families who don’t have the ability to purchase school supplies,” reported Of One Accord Executive Director Sheldon Livesay.
“This is a greatly needed program for children in Appalachia. We see the faces and hear the stories every day and we want you to know you are making a massive difference in Appalachia through your help. Thank you for providing them.”