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25 Mar Families First: How One Teacher is Approaching the Changing Times

COVID-19 has certainly impacted life as we’ve known it. Beyond the direct health impacts of the disease, public health measures and orders have subsequently impacted almost every area of life. In order to keep the vulnerable among us safe, we all have to do our part. While caring for our community through social distancing, we must not forget those who rely on school and community supports. In this time of uncertainty, teachers are navigating school shifts with their students and their families in mind; in this post, a teacher challenges us all to do the same. The blog post below was written by P. Quinby Hunter on March 21st, 2020 and updated on March 24th, 2020. 

“When I became aware that my school was closed for at least three weeks because of COVID-19, one of my first concerns was for my students. How were my students, many of whom rely on free breakfasts and lunches at school, going to eat while schools closed for an extended period? Having enough food is a big concern for the families that I work with. The majority of them are immigrants and refugees. They have limited access to resources because of a lack of transportation, linguistic barriers, and their immigration status. I wanted to ensure my students would feel cared for and safe, even with their daily routine completely upended by global concerns.

My district, Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS), and my school, Northeast Middle School, partner with an organization, Global FC, which supports immigrant and refugee youth using the avenue of soccer.  I became familiar with Global FC because many of my current and former students play on their teams, and I often got to games to cheer my students on. When life is business as usual, Global FC provides mentorship, tutoring, and soccer opportunities to students. However, as the last week has shown, the near future is not clear for many people, especially for students and families who rely on schools for numerous supports.

Upon recognizing that need, Global FC collaborated with another organization, T.A.G.S. Free Lunch KC, to begin distributing sack lunches to students and families in Kansas City. T.A.G.S. Free Lunch KC started because of the increased need and gap in services because of unexpected school closings due to COVID-19. Since starting it has grown from serving 15 students a day to over 300 students a day. All in less than a week! This exponential growth takes volunteers, time and money. I have been donating my time to this program to ensure that as many students as possible are receiving food while schools are closed.

Through my volunteering with T.A.G.S. Free Lunch KC and Global FC, I have been going to the Olive Center, a community center in Northeast Kansas City, to help pack lunches for children. Even after the lunches are packed, my day is not over yet. Many of the families that we are working with do not have access to reliable transportation. The next part of my day is to deliver lunches to students’ houses. I have my “route” and through that, I am connecting with the same students and families on a daily basis. I am checking in with families. Asking if they need anything. Making sure their spirits are good. Providing coloring materials and activities for the younger children. Communicating what other resources are available to them, including meals from KCPS.

After I am finish directly volunteering with T.A.G.S. Free Lunch KC and Global FC, I head home to start calling and texting parents and families of students. I am identifying other families that might need support with food, and providing information about resources that are available in the community. For me, this is a labor of love. I do not know if my district will be shifting to online learning. I do not know when my school will again be opening its doors to students. I do not have the answers to many of the questions that the families I am working with are asking. This is a frequently changing situation, leaving families with a sense of ambiguity.

Since I originally wrote this piece on March 21st, the situation in Kansas City has changed dramatically. We are all now in the beginning of a shelter-in-place order which extends for the next month, potentially even longer. The goal is to keep people safe, and to reduce the contact that occurs between people. As I consider the implications of this directive, I know three things: 1. For many of the families I work with, food and resources just became more difficult to afford; 2. Getting resources to those who need them is now more imperative than ever, and 3. Determining the logistics for safe dispersal of resources is paramount.  The most I can do in this constantly shifting moment is give my time, talent and connections to best serve the children and families that I work with. I ask that you give what you can to help assist those who rely on schools for more than just education. Currently it is difficult to give of our time and talents as we have been asked to stay home to protect each other. Instead, please consider giving donations to support the small team that is distributing food to students who rely on it.

If you are interested in supporting students and families who are facing food insecurity in Kansas City right now, please consider donating to T.A.G.S. Free Lunch KC. The donations go towards buying food and helping to provide students with a sense of security during a tumultuous time.”

This post was written by Cohort 2 Resident Graduate P. Quinby Hunter. She is a teacher a Northeast Middleschool 

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