There are so many children and families who depend on the school lunch programs to survive. We truly overlook the impact homelessness has on school aged children. Our school nutrition program workers don’t overlook nor do they overlook our homeless children. As a school leader l learned that the cafeteria staff members are our schools’ unsung heroes. Many don’t look at the school nutrition program as something vital to student achievement, but it is.
Black boys who are homeless deal with so many heavy things including violence, neglect, hunger, abuse and many other challenges every night. It’s a struggle for them to get to school and perform their best academically. Unlike more fortunate children, homeless children are negatively impacted in schools due to not having stable academic support at home.
Data shows that students who are homeless can be socially withdraw and constantly in trouble. Karlton defied all the odds.
Karlton was the student who always helped others, who worked hard to get the answer if he didn’t know it and most importantly never wasted anything.
He took advantage of his time in school because that’s the only time he was allowed to be a kid.
Little did I know by mentoring Karlton that he would remind me to always remember the reason why I’m thankful.
He had four younger brothers and two older siblings who had recently graduated from our school. Karlton became an adult once the school buses took off from campus. He knew that he would have to ensure that he and his brothers ate and survived until the next day.
Providing Black boys opportunities for leadership roles in school changes their lives. I am intentional about empowering Black boys to be leaders because this is critical to their social – emotional development. These young boys need to learn academic skills to succeed and life skills to survive.
As a Black male educator, I know that it’s difficult for Black boys to share how they feel. We may not be the answer to improving academic success for Black boys but we are a solution to changing their educational experience. Black male educators can relate to many of the challenges Black boys face in schools because we’ve experienced them ourselves.
Schools can do more to help and support families and communities through family and community engagement.
Karlton shared his story in one of our Tuesday groups the week before Fall/Thanksgiving Break. He asked to share and started off by saying, “I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving because my thanksgiving is everyday that I’m here. School provides me a time when my life is good so I take my education much differently because it’s keeping me alive.”
I want others to imagine how the week of Thanksgiving is for many Black boys who are homeless.
These young boys who don’t have relatives or stable places to stay to go to during the times when school is closed. Black boys who throughout this holidays won’t have a warm place to stay, food, the ability to be hydrated, clean or well.
Schools implementing and supporting mentoring programs helps. Karlton learned about ways he could get support for his family through our BMWI mentoring program. By working with his family, community partners and our program, we were able to help his parents stabilize their home life.
This wasn’t an overnight success story. There were many hardships along the way for the family. Long, difficult hours, meetings, projects and fundraisers by our volunteers to make this happen. It also took the support of organizations such as Fathers Incorporated, Lillie’s Foundation, In School Spirit, community leaders, neighbors, alumni associations who support our work of empowering the success of Black boys.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.