Classroom Central is filling in the gaps that poverty leaves in its wake. Kids can’t succeed in school if they haven’t got, for instance, pencils. That’s right: we’re talking about kids who haven’t got pencils. Now how could Kars4Kids say no to giving this worthy org a small grant??
We couldn’t. So we said yes. We wanted to help make sure kids have pencils and everything else they need to succeed in school so they can succeed in life: break the cycle of poverty.
We spoke to Director of Marketing and Communications for Classroom Central, Greg Meitus, to learn more about the work of Classroom Central:
Kars4Kids: The statistic on your website, that teachers spend $500-$1000 of their own money each year to make sure their students have supplies, is heart-wrenching. What does it say to a student when the school gives them supplies their parents could not?
Greg Meitus: One of the most rewarding aspects of our jobs at Classroom Central is seeing students’ faces when they receive the supplies they need to succeed in school. The smiles are priceless. When students receive supplies that their parents cannot afford, it makes them feel valued and it gives them a sense of pride about their school work.
Kars4Kids: Your donation guidelines explain that students rely on teachers for more than just school supplies, and lists several appropriate personal hygiene items that might be donated. Are things like shampoo and conditioner or cleaning spray for teens in the upper grades to take home? How do teachers become aware of the need for, for instance, cleaning spray?
Greg Meitus: Children who attend school come from many different economic circumstances, including homelessness and extreme poverty. Many children talk openly about their circumstances and needs, which opens the door for teachers to provide personal hygiene items they may be lacking. As with school supplies, these items are donated without any judgement being made about the recipients.
Kars4Kids: Why are ear buds listed under “core school supplies”? In what context are these used by students?
Greg Meitus: Ear buds may be helpful for students in situations where they find themselves distracted by activities in the classroom, especially when they are working independently on a computer or laptop. In addition, students who are struggling with reading may have the opportunity to listen to audio books.
Kars4Kids: Your May 2017 survey states that 64% of the students come without the supplies they need to learn. Has this been measured before? Has this statistic changed since 2002 when Classroom Central was founded?
Greg Meitus: The 2017 figure was gathered from a local survey of teachers in the districts we serve. We do not have historical data, but we do know that the poverty rate has been high in our region for many years, which correlates with children lacking school supplies.
Kars4Kids: How do you get the backpacks to the kids? Do they get them on the first day of school, or do you have a way to get them to the kids before then?
Greg Meitus: Our Backpacks & Basics program provides a backpack full of school supplies to every student in elementary schools where 100% of the students are receiving free lunches. We have identified 8,000 students 12 schools to receive backpacks this fall. A highlight of the program is handing them out to students during the first couple of weeks of school.
Kars4Kids: New and gently used books are among the items on your donation guidelines. How are these distributed? Can a child ask a teacher for a book and receive one?
Greg Meitus: Teachers can shop for books at our Free Store and Mobile Free Store in the same way they shop for school supplies. Teachers use these books to build their classroom libraries and they also give away books to students in need.
Kars4Kids: Classroom Central services some 100,000 students in some 200 schools. How many students and schools were you helping in the year Classroom Central was founded, 2002?
Greg Meitus: In 2002, Classroom Central served 22,580 students, 1,129 teachers, and 36 schools. In 2016-17, we served 82,920 students, 4,146 teachers, and 199 schools. In 2017-18, we served 88,280 students, 4,557 teachers, and 199 schools (more than 127,000 students qualified for services).
Kars4Kids: What’s next for Classroom Central?
Greg Meitus: Across the six districts we serve, there are approximately 127,000 students who are in need of free school supplies, so our main goal is to expand our outreach and base of donations in order to serve all of these students. We are always looking for innovative ways to accomplish this goal. This spring, we launched ClassVROOM Central, a 40-foot truck that serves as our new Mobile Free Store and also as a collection site for school supply drives. Teachers from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) are also able to shop online for free school supplies. We are also working with various community partners to expand the number of students served by our Backpacks & Basics program.