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Grace Greason: School resource rooms make a big difference for students in need

March 23, 2017 GMT

For many of us, shopping for daily essentials is alarmingly simple: When we need — or want — something, we drive to the store and buy it, often barely glancing at food prices or determining whether we truly need another pair of jeans. Yet countless others cannot even afford the basic food and clothes that we all need to survive.

Poverty is a challenge for all members of a family, but can be especially difficult on students, whose ability to perform well in school — or even attend at all — can depend on access to basic supplies like food, hygiene products, and outerwear.

That’s where school resource rooms come in: to supplement students’ pantries and closets by providing them with simple but essential items many of us take for granted — boxes of cereal, toothbrushes, and winter jackets, for example. Resource rooms may acquire some supplies through grant money or food banks, but many primarily subsist on donations from their communities.

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Such is the case for Mayo High School’s “Support Our Spartans” (S.O.S.) Room, a small but well-stocked room located across from the school’s cafeteria. I was introduced to the S.O.S. Room in the fall of 2015 when my mom discovered it while volunteering. Originally just a collection of a few items, today the S.O.S. Room has transformed into an organized space that hosts a bountiful food pantry, racks filled with clothes, and a backpack program that provides food and other essentials for students who need them. Last year I wrote a grant to fund racks and shelves for the room, and have since taken a great interest in its well-being.

Not only does the S.O.S. Room help many students obtain the essentials they need, as a student-run program it is showing the whole school the importance of volunteering. My Two Cents, a Mayo club that focuses on service and social awareness, has taken the room under its wing and staffed it with several of its members that receive school credit for volunteering in it daily.

While these students stock the room and oversee the backpack program, other Mayo clubs have stepped up to facilitate donations. The National Honor Society went door-to-door to collect hundreds of basic necessities, and Key Club recently hosted a food drive at Hy-Vee Barlow that brought in $1,500 of food and hygiene products. Another Mayo student also wrote for a grant from the Rochester Rotary Club that will be used to improve the infrastructure of the room.

Although Mayo students have been busy improving the S.O.S. Room, we haven’t forgotten the younger members of our community who could also benefit from a similar resource. Half of the products collected during the Hy-Vee food drive went to the resource room at Riverside Elementary, a Mayo feeder school and according to the Minnesota Department of Education, the Rochester elementary school with the highest percentage of students on free and reduced lunch, which is a strong indicator of need. I volunteer in this room three days a week and can attest first-hand to its necessity in the Riverside community.

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Both the Mayo and Riverside resource rooms have been thriving under the staff that oversees them: Juan Vasquez, a social worker at Mayo, and Lida Casper, the Community Schools Site Facilitator at Riverside. Yet the rooms depend on a steady influx of donations to keep up with the need that exists in their schools.

If you would like to help out, we collect nonperishable food and toiletries and new or gently-used clothing items that can be dropped off in the main office of both schools. Through coming together as a community, we can eliminate some of the obstacles that keep students from reaching their potential.