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|Junior League gives helping hand to students at Barkdull-Faulk|
Back to school just got better for Barkdull Faulk Elementary's 300 students.
That's the case thanks to efforts by the Junior League of Monroe.
Junior League members and other volunteers distributed uniforms and school supplies today, Aug. 14, to Barkdull Faulk's students.
All 300 students got school supplies and a backpack and one set of uniforms and shoes. The organization is working to raise money to give each student two sets of uniforms.
This marks the second year the Junior League has helped Barkdull Faulk's students.
Last year, the organization provided half of Barkdull Faulk's school children with uniforms and gave all students school supplies and backpacks.
The Junior League decided to begin the new program at Barkdull Faulk since it has a 99.5 percent free/reduced lunch rate.
Last year, the organization also provided 75 students with weekend food packages. The Junior League plans to increase that number this year, too.
An anger management course was implemented in each of the grades and 2,500 free books were given to students as part of the Junior League program.
Junior League president Kerri Wall said the response from the school has been overwhelming. Principal Robert Johnson says student and teacher morale has increased since the program started last year.
The organization hosts monthly parent nights at the school and parents have told Junior League members that the "Tools and Literacy for Children" program has helped them "make ends meet," Wall said.
"The school asked us to expand the program because it's been such a positive thing for the school," Wall said.
"We're trying to work this from every angle and meet every need of the child. We stress reading, anger management, nutrition … we're trying to help in every area. If they're hungry, they're not going to learn. If they're embarrassed about how they're dressed, it will affect how they learn. One of the main things that will break the cycle of poverty is education. When they are educated, they can get scholarships and go on and break that cycle," Wall said.
The project is designed solely to help children who may be living in poverty.
Over the past 75 years, the Junior League initiated a number of outreach projects that stand on their own today. Some of those projects include CASA, Shots for Tots and Youth House.
For the new program at Barkdull Faulk, the Junior League conducted a community needs assessment to determine what needs might have been overlooked in the past.
Junior League chairman Christine Rambo said the organization learned a shocking statistic: more than 30 percent of children in Ouachita Parish live in poverty.
The organization also learned Monroe is considered the third poorest city in the nation among cities with a population over 50,000, Rambo said.
"That's a shocking statistic, and with the economy how it is, and the gas, everybody needs a little bit of help," Rambo explained.
Wall said the issue of hunger is a major problem in the region.
Last week, in an interview with The Ouachita Citizen, Food Bank of Northeast Louisiana's executive director Richard King said his group found that in one local elementary school, 50 percent of the students are showing signs of chronic hunger. Some children are hoarding food, stealing food and begging for food from other children, he said.
"It's just so sad to think that a child leaves school and they don't eat again until they return to school the next morning," Wall said.
"With us buying the school supplies and the uniforms, that's extra money in parents' pockets to buy gas or food for the family. Any little thing we can do to help is such a blessing for any parent."
Rambo added, "There are a lot of families out there hurting, and the need is just so tremendous."
Rambo said the Junior League is actively seeking sponsors for students to provide children with more school uniforms this year. She said for $120, the organization could give two students two sets of uniforms, a pair of shoes and a belt.
To become a sponsor in the program, call the Junior League at 322-3236.