by Bill Tschohl
Special to Sun Thisweek
Dakota County Tribune
I am very concerned about the number of Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District students who do not enjoy a good meal on the weekends and also have few books to read at home.
Four of my grandchildren, ages 5 to 9, are in District 196. I cannot imagine them going hungry on the weekend or not having books to read to help their learning curve. Their parents do their best to assure a good life and success in school.
What I cannot ignore is that District 196 has a population of just over 153,000 with a total enrollment of approximately 28,000 students and there are at least 1,000 young students who, without support, lack food on the weekends and have few to no books to read during the summer.
This can only lead to poor performance in school.
With our large population, as parents of students, educators and business firms, we should and must solve this problem.
I and the other Board of Directors for the District 196 Foundation are confident we can count on your financial support and encouragement.
The District 196 Foundation continues to fight hunger in our schools.
At the start of the 2016-2017 school year there were 950 students in our district experiencing food insecurity and not knowing where their next meal would come from on the weekend.
With leadership from Superintendent Jane Berenz, Director of Finance and Operations Jeff Solomon, Director of Community Education Khia Brown; Chair Colleen Dolan and eleven directors, the District 196 Foundation was able to raise $19,000 to cover the cost of providing weekend meals for 146 young students.
These students were coming to school on Mondays hungry and finding it difficult to focus on their classwork.
With support from many businesses, educators and individual donations, more than 600 students at 26 different schools were able to receive a nutritious bag of food to help sustain them over the weekend and during school breaks for the entire school year.
Early this spring the Foundation Board of Directors decided to financially assist a summer reading program pledging $3,000 to the Summer Reading & Writing Club.
A total of 1,443 students are participating in the program this summer. The total cost this summer is $42,800. Title I covers the majority of the cost followed by Special Ed, English Language Learning and $3,000 from the District 196 Foundation.
These free books are a way to help address the problem of kids losing reading skills over the summer. Each child receives five brand new books that they choose. Less advantaged kids literally have nothing to read over the summer. We hear from teachers these kids simply do not have books in their homes. If they don’t read, they don’t learn properly.
While the District 196 Foundation has been successful this past year in helping many young students to be better able to focus on their studies at school, we will be starting all over when the school year starts this fall.
I believe we can expect to see the need for our assistance to grow. We can expect more than 1,000 students requesting help for school year 2017-2018.
It costs $130 working with The Sheridan Story to provide one child a weekend bag of food each weekend during the school year. In the schools where students are in need we will find from 10 to 40 students who need help. Fortunately, the District 196 Foundation has located quite a few businesses and churches who have adopted the needy students in a particular school. For the coming school year we will need to locate additional sponsors or partners for some of the schools.
I and Khia Brown would be pleased to visit any firm interested in becoming a sponsor. Our goal is to raise $150,000 toward the 2017-2018 school year needs.
The program has strengthened relationships between the school and the families who are so grateful to be receiving the food. Everyone is so appreciative of the support received from local businesses, churches and individuals.
Each one of these students is very important to all of us. They are our neighbors, friends and members of our communities in District 196. If they are hungry over the weekend, they do not perform well when they return to school on Monday. With that kind of disadvantage, it can lead to possible future failure. We cannot allow that to happen.
We can only succeed with community support. We are confident our 153,000 residents in District 196 will realize what their donation will mean to the future of so many children in need of our support. Any size donation is welcome — no donation is too small. You can adopt a student for a school year for $130. The tax deductible donation can be made to District 196 Foundation. Include “The Sheridan Story” in the memo and mail to Khia Brown, Director of Community Education, 15180 Canada Ave., Rosemount, MN 55068.
If you have questions or would like to volunteer, contact Khia Brown at 651-423-7720 or [email protected].
Thank you for supporting our young people.
William H. Tschohl, an Apple Valley resident, is a director of the District 196 Foundation. Columns reflect the opinion of the author.