At 8:40 AM, the cafeteria at Lowell Elementary School opens for Universal Breakfast. For many of its students, breakfast would not be an option otherwise. With approximately 20% of their student population being transitional/homeless and 67% qualifying for free and reduced lunches, Lowell Elementary has a demanding mission.
Considering that education is at the core of our business, this mission is close to our hearts. Every year, All Star holds a school supply drive for kids in need. This year was no different, but we decided to focus on some kids and teachers we knew needed some help the most. For the month of August, All Stars donated supplies for Lowell’s three kindergarten classes.
Located in the heart of Capitol Hill, Lowell Elementary is home to the Dragons, pre-K through 5th grade students who come from a variety of backgrounds. Because many of the students experience unstable living situations, their parents are unable to afford school supplies. This, unfortunately, is not an issue just at Lowell. Over the entire state, there are over 40,000 homeless students, according to Washington’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
For the teachers, this means paying for snacks and supplies out of their own pockets. The kindergarten teachers end up providing 20 snack items per day per classroom, not to mention basic teaching supplies. One of these teachers, Kate Arbogast, experienced this significantly. “My first year teaching, I taught first grade in a supply closet that had no cabinets, no sink, and no whiteboards. I had no support from other teachers or administration, and I would often go a whole day without talking to another adult,” she said.
Amanda Spring, another kindergarten teacher, explained that without the help of others, she may not have had an effective classroom. “When I first started at Lowell as a kindergarten teacher, I was faced with a nearly bare classroom and an extremely limited library of books. I had no carpet (where most lessons in kindergarten take place), and no basic school supplies available,” said Ms. Spring. She explained that expecting all families to participate is not a reality. “I was aware that most families were not in a position to contribute financially towards classroom supplies, so I needed to make what I had work. I had to humbly accept the support of family and colleagues and use my personal income to help me develop a comfortable learning place for my kiddos. I tried to look at these hardships as challenges that could be met, and slowly but surely my room became a safe haven for learning. Providing a safe and welcoming space is especially important to me because many of my students face insecure living environments or transitional housing situations that increase their anxiety on a daily basis.”
Despite these hardships, there is a real passion for early childhood education fueling these teachers. Nancy Parks, also a kindergarten teacher, describes the happiness she feels in the classroom. “The joy really is limitless! There is no feeling like watching a child finally conquering a challenging task, whether it’s writing their name, reading a hard word, making a friend, or making it across the monkey bars for the first time. They always turn their glance to you to bring you into the moment, and you can’t help but take pride and find joy in their successes. We really are like surrogate parents for 7 hours a day, and we truly love our students.”
We hope that our donations keep that positive energy going. As a company, we donated 3,073 school supplies, 1,528 of which were snacks, the rest covering everything from glue sticks to a 400-pack of crayons.
“These donations are endlessly impactful. I want students to have the tools they need to have deep and meaningful learning experiences,” said Ms. Arbogast. “I usually pay out of pocket for hundreds of dollars’ worth of supplies and materials every year. These donations may be able to prevent me from having to do that. I am so grateful for this support.”