Right now, in fact as you are reading this, there are hundreds of students at Beattyville Elementary School who are hoping that their dream of a having a desktop computer in their home (with broadband internet access, of course) for Christmas will come true.
Thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® we have been able to “bridge the digital divide” for more than 50 students at the school, along with their school-age siblings and parents.
And this year, thanks to people like you, we are on track to do the same for 30 more.
Working with our partner there in rural Appalachian Kentucky, the Lee County Family Resource Center (LCFRC), at least 30 students (hopefully more if more of our generous supporters are able to step up and make it happen) will be selected to receive an all-in-one computer with age-appropriate software enabling them to do their homework online at home – something they are unable to do today.
But the those chosen to get a computer is not based on the luck of the draw – but need and hard work.
LCFRC director Sherry Lanham’s office is located right in the elementary school and she is in daily contact with the students, teachers and administrators who know which of their students would put a computer in their home to best use.
“One of the most amazing programs last year was the “Computers for Appalachia” program that we were able to participate in for our students,” said Sherry.
Every child seeking a computer must write an essay detailing exactly why they need a computer, and what they will use it for.
“We have children working so hard on their essays for a chance of receiving a new computer,” says Sherry. “Parents have become involved and actually work with their children with the hope of being selected to receive a new computer.”
And the excitement is in the air at Beattyville Elementary.
“We have told the students that the winners will be chosen based on attendance, attitude, hard work, their essay, and need,” she told us.
Last year, one family who received a computer lives in an apartment complex and their home became in effect a computer lab for the other children living there.
“They worked with other families in the complex to share the cost of the internet bill and all the children there use the computer to do their homework, research projects, and other activities,” said Sherry.
We were able to meet our match in October to raise the funds necessary to reach our goal of 30 computers and on behalf of Sherry and all the students who have received computers – and those who will be having their best Christmas ever – we express our heartfelt gratitude for making it all happen.
And, just a reminder, there’s still time to help us exceed our goal. Each $300 we can raise between now and Christmas is one more computer we can put into the hands of one more deserving child, and one more deserving family.
In McDowell County, West Virginia we support an afterschool program operated by our partner there, Big Creek People in Action (BCPIA).
But actually, it’s technically incorrect to call it an “afterschool” program since it’s a service BCPIA provides year-round for school children and their parents.
On typical school days, BCPIA offers the opportunity for one-on-one mentoring and homework assistance for dozens of children from the time the final school bell rings for the day until 6:30 p.m.
For the children, that means no wasted afternoons of being alone at home watching TV waiting for their parents to get homework, and for the working parents it means no worries about what their kids are up to during this “free time.”
However, during summer vacation BCPIA operates its “after-school” program from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. helping to ensure that children don’t forget what the learned during the school year and to help them be better prepared for advancing to the next grade level at the start of the new school year.
“Our parents really appreciate what we do for their children,” reported BCPIA co-executive director Marsha Timpson. “If there is no school, they are at risk of going hungry.
“We feed these children full nutritious meals so they are not hungry when they go home.”
Thanks to our supporters, Americans Helping Americans® is able to assist BCPIA in its mission of providing a safe, fun, educational place where children are eager to go to spend their otherwise empty afternoons and summer days and enjoy a free meal as well.
“Our afterschool program is like family and we are glad to be here for our kids,” added Marsha, “even when school is not in session.”
Nearly one in four residents of the small town of Lonaconing, located in the Appalachian region of Maryland, live in poverty, about 10 percent higher than the natural average of 14 percent.
Many of these children’s parents struggle to just make sure there is plenty of food in the house for the family and juggle paying bills while getting by paycheck-to-paycheck on minimum-wage jobs.
Purchasing backpacks filled with all the items on their teacher’s school supply list is simply not something they can budget for, even when they know back-to-school season is quickly arriving when there’s no money to add to their household budget – especially when there are several school-age children in the family.
However, this August, thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans®, we were able to provide 250 backpacks filled with school supplies to students at George’s Creek Elementary School.
For the children, the fear of shame and embarrassment of they may have had of entering their first class on the first day of school was eliminated. And for their parents, the stress of worrying about how to pay for such supplies was eliminated.
George’s Creek principal reported that most of the backpacks were given out during the school’s “Meet the Teacher night.
“Parents were appreciative and some even said they came just to get the bags,” she told us. “They didn’t have any money to purchase them.”
And she added,
“The students were proud to wear them.”
“Thank you so much.”
On the morning of August 3, hundreds of Lee County, Kentucky students, and their parents arrived at Beattyville Elementary bright and early to wait in line for the school’s doors to open at 8:30 a.m.
No, it wasn’t for the first day of school just yet, but for its “Readifest” back-to-school event supported by Americans Helping Americans®.
Not only did the students receive backpacks and school kits filled with school supplies, they also received Americans Helping Americans® “MightyMolars” dental kits containing toothbrushes, floss and a six-month supply of toothpaste, as well as a brand-new pair of shoes through our “Barefeet” program.
“Everything was great!” reported Sherry Lanham, director of our partner there the Lee County Family Resource Center who oversees the annual event every year. “The backpacks and dental kits were a big hit.”
At Beattyville Elementary, every child receives breakfast and lunch through the federal free and reduced-price meals program in a community where the need is great.
“We had about 95 percent of our students attend, and the parents and kids were so excited,” she said. “Many told me that if not for this event, their child would not have had school supplies – and certainly not a backpack or shoes.”
On behalf of all of these children, moms and dads, we say thank you to all the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® who helped ensure that they will be “ready” for the first day of school just a few days away.
We know there are hundreds of thousands of kids in Appalachia who are bright and eager to learn. But too often they become discouraged by parents, many who are high school dropouts themselves and never earned a GED, who don’t encourage them to work hard and succeed in the classroom.They don’t take the time to read to their children at a young age, and never help them with their homework even if they could. And they don’t commend their children for bringing home good grades…and don’t admonish them to try harder when they bring home D’s and F’s on their report card.In the classroom, with as many as 30 or more other classmates, no matter how dedicated their teacher is, it’s impossible for students who are struggling to get the individualized attention they need to understand what’s in their textbooks and on the chalkboard.That’s where we come in.
Working with our partners who offer afterschool programs, such as Big Creek People in Action in McDowell County, West Virginia, the lives of many children are transformed where they receive the one-on-one tutoring they need to help them keep up with their classmates.On elementary school girl, Brittany, told us how she was doing well in all her classes, except math – and how to divide fractions (something that likely challenges many adults as well).However, when she informed her tutor at BCPIA it was a concept she just couldn’t comprehend, she received the individualized attention she needed and within a couple of hours she had mastered it and was solving problems with ease.
“Now I fly right through it,” Brittany told us.
Who knows what would’ve happened if she had fallen behind in school, and then in class after class, grade after grade, year after year she continued to fall further and further behind until she simply gave up, becoming a teenage high school dropout with no hope for anything better than a minimum wage job at best in her future.But thanks to our supporters, Brittany, who is now in high school, and many others just like her received the encouragement they need to not give up and drop out and are told “Good job!” when they proudly show off their report cards with all A’s.We had the opportunity to meet Brittany a few years ago during a visit to BCPIA who told us about her 11-hour days – leaving home at 8 a.m. to catch the school bus, in class until around 4 p.m. when she would go to the BCPIA afterschool program and not getting home until about 7 p.m., making for a very long day for her and many others just like her.“Yeah, but it’s amazing,” she commented.
She also told us how much she enjoys the afterschool program at BCPIA where she and her classmates not only receive tutoring, snacks and a hot meal and even have fun doing their homework together.
This past fall we were thrilled to hear from BCPIA co-executive director Marsha Timpson how well Brittany and her younger brother David are doing. Marsha was hosting a baby shower for Mary, one of the women who works in the afterschool program, “when I overheard a comment that went straight to my heart.” Mary had invited Brittany to come to the baby shower, and as she was handing the presents to her a lady made a comment to Brittany about how helpful she was.“Brittany thanked them and went on to say how much she loved Mary AND Big Creek People in Action,” Marsha said. “She said both her and her brother loved it here and all of the people here.“The lady asked her why she loved it so much and Brittany became very quiet for a moment (very unusual occurrence – ha!) and finally answered and said, ‘I would have to say because we were always made to feel very welcome here.’”
Marsha said she thought about Brittany’s answer that night and it made her heart warm.“How wonderful that we do that and how wonderful that those children feel that way,” she said. “I cannot think of a better thing we could do for those children.
“Feeding them is fantastic, listening to them is fantastic, helping them with their homework is fantastic – but making them feel welcome while doing those things is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!!!!!!“The feeling of WELCOME encompasses so many things: you feel safe, you feel comfortable, you feel liked and most of all – you feel wanted,” Marsha added. “I hope we make every single one of those young’uns feel that way because they are super special to us.”
These children are also “super special” to us as well and thanks to our supporters we are proud to be a partner instilling a love of education to all the young children who are fortunate enough to be able to attend BCPIA’s afterschool program yearning to learn and succeed in school, and in life.
Technology has a foothold in every aspect of today’s society but many children in the heart of Appalachia are getting left behind as for their parents a computer and internet service is simply a “luxury” they cannot afford. Last year, Americans Helping Americans® launched a pilot program to bridge the digital divide and supplied 24 elementary students in Beattyville, Kentucky with desktop computers for use at home. Because of the great success of the program, we saw the children improve their grades on assignments and keep in touch via email with their teachers on days they were sick or school was closed due to inclement weather! Feedback from teachers is that the computers provided to the students allowed the children to further educate themselves and research topics of interest to them. The students were able to get deep into a topic, gather more details, and use that information to support their answers with low-cost internet service in a partnership between the school and AT&T.
The students love to learn with computers. It’s fun for them! They can play online learning games to help with lessons and they become more tech savvy! Americans Helping Americans® is extremely proud of the students’ accomplishments and this year we were able to send an additional 30 computers to new students!
Among the 75 letters from children requesting their reason for needing a computer are:
“Most of the time I struggle on tests, but with this computer, I could study much more fluently and do better on tests.” – Kalib
“One way in which a computer would be beneficial to me is to be able to work on my online school problems. I could work on my Lexia, to build on my reading and math comprehension. I could do my Moby Max, an online max and reading program. I could study islands which helps learn about social studies.” – Kaison
“My first reason is teacher communication. I could e-mail questions if I am having trouble with my work. I could complete assignments that I have missed if I was ill. I could also facetime or skype my teachers if I need to.” –Allyson
Americans Helping Americans® is proud of your support to our programs like this! We hope to provide computers to entire schools and train the next generation of tech-savvy children in the years to come so they can have bright futures and sharp minds. Computer Science opportunities are always increasing and who knows, maybe you helped the next Bill Gates get their very first computer.