In the latest example of government working with non-profits and the private sector to help our most vulnerable students, the Regional Office of Education #12 recently joined forces with Feed the Children to distribute backpacks filled with school supplies, non-perishable food, and reading books to qualifying students in the five counties served by the ROE.  

On Tuesday, April 4, 2017, ROE 12 officials collected the materials from the Feed the Children drop-off point at Black Diamond Harley-Davidson in Marion.  These backpacks and supplies are provided by Feed the Children, an international nonprofit relief organization headquartered in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  Feed the Children delivers food, medicine, clothing, and other necessities to individuals, children, and families who lack the essentials due to famine, war, poverty, or natural disaster.

ROE 12 administers the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Education grant for Clay, Crawford, Jasper, Lawrence, and Richland counties.  Regional Superintendent of Schools Monte Newlin said that approximately 475 students in the five county region qualified for homeless assistance last school year.  So far this school year, 458 students have received homeless assistance from his office.  Newlin said, “Even though our’s is a rural area, we still have students who qualify as homeless.  Although there are several criteria that must be met, basically, if a student lacks a fixed, regular, nighttime abode, they can be considered as homeless.  Whether it’s a temporary situation, or an ongoing issue, many families and their children find themselves in a homeless situation.  Poverty, domestic abuse situations, and family disfunction are all contributing factors to the relatively high numbers of students who qualify.”    

Brandy Sechrest is the ROE’s Homeless Liaison and works directly with local school districts to identify and provide assistance to those students with the greatest need.  Identification is key as the impact of homelessness is profound and severe.  Students suffer academically, as recent statistics indicate that half of the children who are homeless are held back for one grade and 22% are held back for multiple grades.  Additionally, studies indicate that homeless kids experience higher dropout rates, are two times as likely to have learning disabilities, and are significantly more likely to fall short of meeting statewide standards in math and reading.  Regarding physical and emotional wellness, homeless students are three times as likely to have an emotional disturbance as their peers, and are three times more likely to attempt suicide.

Newlin said, "By providing assistance to keep kids in school, we can hopefully help to break the downward cycle caused by homelessness." 

Government-nonprofit-private sector partnerships can provide some of the best efforts at addressing social issues such as student homelessness.  

More information can be obtained on the Regional Services page of the ROE’s website at www.roe12.org or by calling the Crawford County ROE office at 618.544.2719.