At Lyons Middle and High School in Lyons, N.Y., many of the several hundred students who attend often arrive or depart throughout the year when their families migrate to seek work opportunities. Due to this high turnover in the student population, it is often difficult for families and the school district to provide sufficient supplies for every child. This season, the HWS Coalition for Educational Equity (CEE) stepped in to extend a helping hand to the public school.
The student-run educational advocacy group ran its first school supplies drive during Reading Days and Finals Week of the fall semester.
“It was an opportunity for the entire campus to participate and make a big difference,” says Stephanie Kenific ’17, president of CEE. “Students, especially those graduating or going abroad next semester, were able to donate their extra binders, notebooks or folders. Faculty and staff also had several opportunities to donate new or gently used supplies, and many did!”
The organization placed donation bins in a variety of locations on campus, including residence halls, Scandling Campus Center, Intercultural Affairs and Merritt Hall, where the HWS Education Department is located.
At the end of the semester, CEE members were able to deliver four large plastic bins full of binders, dividers, notebooks, folders, writing utensils, crayons, markers and rulers.
Members of CEE say that the school supplies drive helped raise awareness of issues affecting lower-income districts in addition to helping the HWS community become engaged in an impactful service-learning project.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my first semester, it’s that community engagement is very important at HWS,” says Stephen VanHoesen ’18, who will be taking over as vice-president of CEE in the spring. “By doing the drive, we engaged the Colleges and students with the community. In regards to CEE, we helped bring awareness to an issue in education and sought a goal to help alleviate the issue.”
The CEE prides itself on striking a balance between social justice and community service. Launched in 2013, the organization started as an open forum to further discuss issues raised in classes on educational systems and social inequity. Since then, the organization has committed itself to raising awareness on educational inequities by participating in a variety of campus events.
“The very act of teaching is to help someone better themselves and their abilities,” VanHoesen says. “Through donating supplies we can allow students to focus on taking notes, rather than where to take them.”
Kenific says the issue of education is critically important to the members of the student-led organization.
“You can see at group meetings just how passionate everyone is on these issues, and this drive was an important channel for that energy,” she says.
In September, the organization hosted a welcome event for first-years and current members of the Teacher Education Program, at which local teachers presented on how to make an impact as an educator in light of current public policy. CEE also frequently posts flyers listing fast facts on education throughout campus.
“We’re still a young organization, but I feel so proud and energized from the success of this semester,” Kenific says. “We can and must continue to make a difference in any way we can.”
In the photo above, Assistant Director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning Jeremy Wattles (left), Principal of Lyons Middle School and High School Nelson Kise, and President of the HWS Coalition for Educational Equity Stephanie Kenific ’17 gather for a photo during a special service project to provide much-needed school supplies to students of the school district in Lyons, N.Y.