Today, I met with a very passionate Park Forest Elementary (PFE) fifth grader (who is technically now a sixth grader at our neighboring middle school) in a meeting that she scheduled with the Food Services Director for our school district. She met with her fifth grade teacher and me over a week ago to share her ideas about starting a backpack program to fight poverty and hunger in our school. She had written a Zine as a fifth grade assignment about the issue of hunger in America and had researched some backpack programs and even had a person from one of those programs come to her fifth grade class to talk about her program that helped families with issues of hunger over weekends by providing backpacks with meals.
When she left the meeting with her teacher and me, she had some things to think about and a list of ideas of what she may want to explore next. She asked me to find out the data for free and reduced lunches in our district. I contacted the Food Services Director for that information which I promptly shared with her. She was surprised by the number of students who qualified in just our school (about 22%) and was even more convinced that she wanted to proceed with her project. She was clear that due to the large number in our school, her project would be limited to PFE for now.
She started a shared document with her teacher and me to draft a letter to the Food Services Director to set up a meeting seeking her support and to brainstorm other ideas and what possible resources might be available. She sent an email to the Director asking to set up a meeting. with a few of the ideas that her teacher and I shared to help her present her already compelling proposal.
Today, the Food Services Director arrived at PFE and we met for about an hour. Our student (as well as her mother and twin sister) arrived. She presented us with a two page sheet with her talking points for our conversation. She had written out her ideas and thoughts then paused frequently to hear our questions, thoughts and ideas. She posed questions of her own, shared her ideas and demonstrated her passion to follow through with this project. She eagerly took notes of ideas and was pleased with her list of next steps as well as key people who might be able to help her.
Later that afternoon, she wrote to us thanking us for meeting with her and giving her some helpful ideas and further direction. The Food Service Director sent her some of the contact information from people that she suggested might be helpful. As short time later, she wrote an email to her fifth grade teacher (who was unable to attend the meeting) with a copy to me to fill her in. Here was her note:
I just wanted to let you know about what happened at the meeting today. Mrs. S. (Food Service Director) agreed that we could do the program and we talked about the following next steps:
– Creating a survey for the PFE parents to determine interest in receiving the food and interest in contributing. I will share a Google Doc with you!
– Contacting the food bank to see how much they would be willing to help.
– Develop ways to advertise the program such as, an information sheet and/or YouTube video.
– Draft letters to recruit funding and volunteers. I will share these with you.
Thank you so much for all of your help! I look forward to meeting with you again soon!
P.S. My idea for the name is Penguin Packs. :0)
Pretty impressive for a student who is on summer break! She has researched an issue that means something to her and now is seeking the means to bring it to fruition. She is asking good questions and is eager to forge her own way. This is true service learning/civic engagement and student voice coming through loud and clear. I will look forward to supporting her and watching her progress. This is where passion is leading her…