A group of faculty and staff members from the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith, took charge in an effort to provide assistance to young learners through donations to meet some of their basic needs.
After hearing a presentation by Spradling Elementary School principal Robyn Dawson on the incredible needs of a school with 98 percent of its students living in poverty, Dr. Susan Simkowski asked how she could help.
Simkowski recruited colleagues Dr. Becky Timmons, Dr. Shelli Henehan, Dr. AnnGee Lee, Dr. Laura Witherington, and Dr. Sara Davis to help collect items for the elementary students. "I knew they would say yes," she laughed as she loaded items from her car.
Spradling staff members Kristin Riggs, counselor, and Dana Booth, assistant principal, picked up more than 100 tote bags and baskets filled with toiletries from the UAFS campus to store at the school for students throughout the year.
"We're just thrilled to pieces," said Booth. "We have such a high level of poverty in our building, and these kids just don't have all of their basic needs, so having these supplies to give them as needed is a huge blessing."
Riggs explained that the items will be kept in a special closet in her office where she stocks extra school supplies, toiletries and even changes of clothes for students whose families cannot afford those items during times of need and crisis.
"It upsets me so much that children don't have the things they need." said Timmons, tears in her eyes, "They can't learn."
Riggs agreed, adding, "We talk a lot about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. They can't be expected to perform that higher-level thinking if their basic needs aren't being met."
Abraham Maslow's theory suggests that before individuals meet their full potential, they must satisfy a series of needs, beginning with physiological needs such as food, water, rest and shelter. Educators at high-poverty schools such as Spradling Elementary have been dedicated to helping meet these needs for students to foster their ability to learn.
"There are times parents just need a boost, that little bit of help at the moment and you see them rise up, and it's very exciting to feel that," said Riggs.
"Our students are very, very grateful, we get lots of little love notes and pictures that they draw. They're so thankful."