MEA members take action to combat student poverty

Michigan teachers and support staff serving on the frontlines of education are increasingly seeing poverty among school kids as a direct obstacle to improving performances in the classroom. When school kids can’t adequately clothe themselves in winter or fill their bellies so they are prepared to learn, they will struggle to fill in the right answers on standardized tests. 

All across the state MEA members have been involved during this holiday season to make sure poverty doesn’t keep a student from getting a quality education.

MEA members in the Traverse City area are donating hundreds of food and care items to the student-run food bank at Traverse City High School, with the donations earmarked for local students and their families.

“For too many children in our community, learning is a challenge when they don’t have enough to eat in the morning or lack basic personal and school supplies,” said Mary McGee-Cullen, MEA’s UniServ Director. “Local teachers and education support professionals are stepping up to help those most in need this holiday season, because we all have deep roots in our community and we strongly believe in doing our part to make sure everyone in this community can succeed.”

MEA staff and members have been accepting donations for weeks at its Traverse City office, and have received contributions of everything from cereal to soap and shampoo.

“It’s been amazing to see the outpouring of support from local residents who, like MEA members, are committed to helping ensure every child has a chance to succeed,” McGee-Cullen said. “We look forward to continued involvement in finding solutions, however big or small, to the issues facing local children and families.”

In Port Huron, MEA’s “Fill a Bus” event collected food and care items for local families in need. Teachers and education support professionals in Port Invited citizens to help fill buses with donations for those in need. Now in its fourth year, the event, sponsored by the MEA with help from the Salvation Army and Kroger, collected bedding, toys, non-perishable food and toiletries this holiday season.

“The ‘Fill a Bus’ event is a great opportunity for local residents to join Port Huron school employees providing much-needed food and items for our less-fortunate neighbors,” MEA UniServ Director Kathleen Trongo said. “Port Huron MEA members have deep roots in our community, and they are proud to do their part to help local children, families and seniors who are struggling.”

More than 20 MEA members from Wexford and Missaukee counties served as volunteers for “Project Christmas” to help families in need get new, free books as holiday gifts for loved ones. 

“Teachers and education support professionals have deep roots in our community and strongly believe in giving back, especially during the holiday season,” said MEA UniServ Director Chad Williams. “For too many families, these continue to be difficult times, and Project Christmas is a terrific way to help our neighbors. As teachers and school employees, we’re proud to be part of a tradition that shows how our community sticks together and stands up for each other.”

Project Christmas began more than 20 years ago as a partnership between local businesses, charities and faith organizations with the Salvation Army. More than 1,000 families were served during the one-day event. Every half-hour, 60 families received a shopping list to visit tables featuring items ranging from gifts to food.