By: Katie Sobiech
The kind of loving, no-strings-attached outreach that has come pouring in from local leaders, volunteers and staff at Akron Public Schools, Findley CLC is what makes it much more than “just” a school.
From the moment each and every student walks through the doors, the staff at Findley want to make them feel loved and accepted.
School counselor, Carla Bishop-White, always touches base with new students in particular, getting them started on the right foot. Literally, as shoes and other items can be hard to come by for some of the refugee students.
One particular family came to America with nothing. They borrowed everything they had to come to school that day.
When they left they had bags of items and were very thankful.
This is what the Findley Project is all about.
Representing Different Countries
Findley is unique in that children from all around the globe come together in one classroom here.
From Nepal to Burma, these children represent places all over the world.
Because of this “Kids come to us not having the resources they need to start school right away,” Sherry Bennington, Principle of Findley, said.
Things such as uniforms, school supplies and even the appropriate shoes are often needed, especially if the child comes from out of country and isn’t prepared for the climate.
And thanks to generous donations “Carla has access to those resources the day that they enroll,” Bennington shared.
The goal is to allow the kids to feel as confident as they can as they walk into their new school.
“This is a cool place because we have kids who have the same struggle,” Bishop-White said of the students.
Findley is a place where all cultures are accepted and celebrated.
“It’s almost like they find a second home here,” Bishop-White said.
“There are other people speaking their language, interpreters, no one is looking at them strange, they fit right in. I don’t care where you’re from, whether you’re white, black Nepalese, you find a place at Findley. You’re never alone,” she continued.
Helping Parent’s Too
What’s also important is that they reach the parents.
They give them donations like soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, coats, shoes and personal items.
“The parents see the school as an extension. We can help them also. And it can be a concern that doesn’t have anything to do with school. Before I think it was so separate (separating school from other sorts of help),” Bishop-White said.
“We want to make an extension within the community, not just the school,” Bennington agreed.
They’ve already begun planning for this November, when they will have a school Thanksgiving meal for all of the families.
Bennington and Bishop-White are happy and thankful with the help they’ve received, but always welcome new volunteers and donations.
Right now, their greatest need is help with academics. Any type of tutoring or academic help is welcomed so that kids can feel comfortable and confident during testing time.
When asked about her vision for the future of the school and its needs, Bennington replied,
“As a school we always think in the realm of ‘what can we do right now’. It’s so exciting that people are willing to give of their time or resources, or drop something off.”
Bishop-White added, “It’s hard to answer because we’re used to doing it all ourselves.”
Bennington does envision their school having more of an impact on the community in the future.
“I think it will be an amazing thing when we get to the point where it’s the North Hill community and not just Findley,” she said.
“Our kids are impacted by this entire community every single day, so that’s such an important part of their growing, learning and experiences,” she continued.
As for any results set in stone, such as improvement in test scores and grades, they cannot measure that data at this time as this project is so new.
In the future they do hope to see how this impacts test scores, children’s grades and overall success.
“It’s hard to put concrete data on what’s still a work in progress. You can see them just moving forward. We’re already planning into the next school year,” Bennington said.
In the meantime Findley is so grateful for the outpouring of support shown.
“Seeing the outreach from so many who are willing to help a kid’s life – words can’t express the meaning behind that,” Bennington said.
For more information on how to get involved or give to this cause please visit www.loveakron.org .