By Katie Sobiech
If you could dream-up the absolutely perfect school, what would you envision? Would it be a place where kids have all of their daily needs met? Where everyone fits in? Where there is help for over-burdened teachers and struggling students?
Well, who says our dreams can’t come true with a little work?
One Akron School isn’t too far off from their “ideal school” becoming a reality.
Findley CLC Learning Center in Akron is currently being transformed by the love of our community.
A Great Impact
This project that began less than a year ago has been such a great experience that Sherry Bennington, Principal of Findley CLC, says “It’s hard to put words to it. It’s so dynamic for our building.”
Findley is a special school, with a majority of their students being refugees coming from many different countries.
It isn’t uncommon for them to arrive not even having the proper pair of shoes to wear to school.
Bennington says that the amount of support they’ve been given for their kids and teachers has been “enormous” and “a wonderful thing”.
“There is great excitement that a teacher has when they say ‘We’re going to get a volunteer in our room on Friday mornings to help with this project’!”
“It sets a great tone for the building and a wonderful support for our kids and families,” Bennington smiled.
It just takes a mix of passionate leaders and loyal volunteers to make something like this work. And so far it’s been a great success.
Consistency is key with anything, so having faithful tutors coming in regularly has made this entire project a success.
“The volunteers have a true commitment to the school,” Bennington shared.
“Sometimes you get volunteers and things happen. Life happens and they start out very gung-ho and it fizzles out. Here it hasn’t happened. Our volunteers are strong. They are very, very grateful for the children that we share with them,” Carla Bishop-White, Counselor at Findley CLC, said.
“I’ve always said this place is very addictive and I think everyone is catching onto that,” she added.
The volunteers talk to the students about their lives, about their grades and any other needs they may have. Some of these students may not have encountered such attention and kindness as this before.
This level of commitment from the volunteers excites the kids, who are very grateful.
“You have to see the excitement in their faces from knowing that someone else cares, and getting the extra attention,” Bishop-White said.
By the same token, the volunteers are just as excited.
“The volunteers are so excited to be here and look forward to seeing the kids. It’s a new world,” Bishop-White said.
“They value their time with the kids,” Bennington added.
“Seeing volunteers come into the building so regularly for me is the most exciting thing to watch. There are so many people in the community committed to the kids and their success,” Bennington continued.
“It’s a wonderful thing to see that the community sees the value in coming into the school and helping the kids. It’s a neat connection to watch happen.”
Meeting Many Needs
And volunteers help in many ways, reaching beyond “just” tutoring.
“With this winter as harsh as it’s been, Jane Penny has really worked to provide a true clothing closet for our kids with hats, clothes and whatever they need,” Bennington shared.
Penny has faithfully volunteered her time to start the clothes closet and keep it going.
Whether its school supplies, or shoes, they make sure the kids have what they need so that they can focus on school.
“We’ve been able to make sure our kids have what they need to go to and come from school. Really just supporting those day-to-day needs,” Bennington said.
What makes this project so unique is that it’s not just for the kids, but the families as well.
Watch for Part Two next week to find out how they are reaching out to the families of the children, their greatest need and how they hope to make a greater community impact.
For more information on how to get involved or give to this cause please visit www.loveakron.org .