A few weeks ago the school board for the Kansas City School District voted to close 29 of their 61 schools effective at the end of this year. This closing will result in the loss of 700 jobs and the relocation of thousands of students. The Board said the closings were necessary due to deep budgetary cuts as a result of the recession and because of population decreases as more and more people move out of the urban core into the suburbs
One of the things that caught my attention about this story was that last year at Annual Conference, Rev. Adam Hamilton, who is senior pastor at the country’s largest United Methodist church, talked about their church’s sponsorship of the Kansas City School District. Knowing the serious issues that the district faces, Rev. Hamilton challenged his membership, about 18,000 people, to adopt every single teacher and class in the district. He also challenged the church to become more involved in the affairs of these schools, saying that they couldn’t leave them behind simply because they lived in the suburbs.
Last fall I took Rev. Hamilton’s idea and presented it to our outreach commission as something we should consider doing. Knowing that we could not sponsor the entire district, they decided to choose a school in Dorchester near Greenwood Memorial. This is not a community which can hold an auction in which stays at people’s beach homes are auctioned off or can send out a letter to the parents asking for donations and receive $21,000, which were both recently done here in Sudbury. The commission contacted the principal to find out how we could best serve their needs, and she gave us a list of things she thought every student should have. The list was not fancy things; it was basic school supplies.
The outreach commission worked on a plan and came to you with their list, and you stepped up. Two months ago, they delivered enough supplies to give every child in the third, fourth and fifth grades: 2 large erasers, 1 box of crayons, 1 box of markers, 1 box of colored pencils, 2 pads of post-it notes, 12 pencils, 2 glue sticks, a pair of scissors, one 1” 3-ring notebook, 1 spiral notebook, 2 highlighters and a calculator. These items were given to more than 290 students.
In an email with the subject “WOW!!!” the principal wrote “I am in awe of how successful you were in collecting these much needed supplies for our students… the students were so excited. My thanks seems so little compared to the gift you gave our students.” I give thanks to God for your generosity and I hope you can truly appreciate what this means for these children.
The high school that these children will feed into only graduates 40% of their youth in four years, and 42% drop-out and never graduate at all. I don’t believe that we can say this is someone else’s problem or that we don’t have to be concerned because these are someone else’s children. These are children who live just over twenty miles away from us. They are closer to us than many of our extended families, and these are God’s children.
I am grateful for your participation in what we have done so far, and I pray that we will continue to reach out and support these children and their teachers. The outreach commission is already working on plans for next year’s program in which we will supply grades 1, 2 and 3; and if you remember in the fall when you are out buying for your own children, or when you see the supplies in the stores, pick something up because it will go to good use.
Let us be proud of our efforts. It may not seem like much, but we can make a difference in these children’s lives. Let us continue to pray for these children and their teachers, and let us give thanks to God for the success of this program!