- Sponsorship -

Alpine Elementary leans on KSSN to improve attendance and academic gains

Helps teachers and children focus on educating and learning

During a week of snow days at Alpine Elementary this winter, teacher Brooke Johnston leaned on Kent School Services Network to help feed many of her students at their homes.

“We had so many back-to-back snow days this year, which made me worry for my students because I know how hard it was to get out to a grocery store to get food,” said Johnston, a third-grade teacher. “I also know that extra days home meant extra expenses for families, so I was worried that some kids from our school would be hungry.”

DHHS worker Sara McCuaig addresses community school leaders from around the country

Johnston contacted the school’s food service director, but they hadn’t delivered any food because of the weather. She then called Alpine’s KSSN coordinator, Stephen Lovell. He suggested reaching out to a local church that gives students bags of food for the weekend.

Remembrance Church coordinator Julie Wilson was happy to help.

“She gave me close to 200 bags of food,” said Johnston, who began knocking on doors at a local trailer park with her family and kindergarten teacher Amy Sherwin. “Families were very grateful for the help and the students were excited to see familiar faces. If they didn’t need food they still thanked us and suggested other people in the park who might need it.”

In a nutshell, KSSN, a community-school coalition, provides the basics for children so they can get on with the job of learning new things. This includes clothes, food, money and relationships.

“It is good to not carry these burdens alone, and it frees me up to teach the students to the best of my ability,” Johnston added.

Stephen Lovell outlines some of the services offered by Alpine’s Kent School Services Network program

From Basics to Partnerships

Johnston’s story was shared at a recent gathering of community school directors from about 50 communities across the country. The directors were participating in a Coalition for Community Schools retreat on May 1-3 at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.

Alpine Elementary is one of 45 schools in 10 districts across Kent County utilizing Kent School Services Network, helping families with everything from food and health care to counseling and financial assistance. KSSN met more than 6,400 basic needs in 2016-17 and leveraged more than $500,000 in services, donations and volunteers, according to its website.

Amber Fox, director of Integrated Supports and team lead for KSSN, said they often see improved attendance for students as well as academic gains.

“In many of the schools we partner with, the coordinator has been able to find resources to support basic needs, and has now moved on to bringing in partnerships to increase family and student engagement, supporting staff wellness, and increasing access to out-of-school time activities such as after-school programs and summer camps,” Fox said. “All of this helps teachers to focus on what they do best – teach.

Chris Boyd, Alpine Elementary social worker, explains how KSSN fits into the school district and building strategic plans

“It also helps to support a more welcoming environment for parents, who are then more likely to engage with the school.”

Alpine’s KSSN program was highlighted at the recent retreat of the Community School Leadership Network (CSLN). Fox said one of the reasons the school was featured was its location. Many of the CSLN visitors come from rural or suburban communities similar to Alpine.

The other reason is Principal Jason Snyder, “an incredible leader,” according to Fox.

“In this work, principal buy-in and leadership is one of the most important factors in the success of the community schools strategy.”

Variety of Services

Stephen Lovell, Alpine’s KSSN coordinator, shared with his visitors some of the programs that have proven successful for the school’s students and families. They include:

  • Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students): A volunteer program where dads or father figures can come and help support students during the school day.
  • Attendance Celebrations: To help recognize hard work and promote positive attendance at school.
  • Feeding Walker Kids: Donates close to 100 bags of food every week to students who sign up for additional food support.

Lovell said he is most proud of the relationships KSSN builds with students and families.

“I think it was a great opportunity to share a snapshot about our school and how we are all working together as a team to help support our families,” Lovell said of the community school gathering. “One of the best parts is the support I get from the principal and teachers here at Alpine Elementary, so I was happy to showcase our work to the other directors.”

CONNECT

Offering Help Where it’s Needed, School and Home

- Sponsorship -
Cris Greer
Cris Greer
For more than three decades, Cris Greer has been a wordsmith, working in the fields of journalism, advertising and marketing. Much of the past decade, he helped grow the MLive Statewide High School Sports desk as a supervisor, editor and reporter, which included eight newspapers in Michigan and mlive.com. Cris also was a freelancer for The Grand Rapids Press, The Advance and On the Town magazine for many years. A good portion of his early career was spent building and managing the copywriting team in the advertising department at Meijer, Inc., where he oversaw copywriting for print ads, mailers, brochures, signage, several dozen in-house magazines per year and much more.

LATEST ARTICLES

This student leader aspires to inspire

His advice: seize all opportunities, reach out to others...

Plotting for a plot

Students’ hand-drawn maps are meant for the safekeeping of memories and to spur ideas for when they write personal narratives...

Students reopen fine-dining restaurant six months after closing its doors

GRCC’s The Heritage has reopened to the general public, with culinary students cooking, baking their way toward degrees...

‘We’re educators; we always make it work’

Kelly VanDyke’s roots in Kenowa Hills reach back to her days as a student teacher there in the Resource Room. Entering her eleventh school year as a special education teacher at Central Elementary, she is preparing for new students, safety protocols and classroom learning, reimagined...

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

‘We’re educators; we always make it work’

Kelly VanDyke’s roots in Kenowa Hills reach back to her days as a student teacher there in the Resource Room. Entering her eleventh school year as a special education teacher at Central Elementary, she is preparing for new students, safety protocols and classroom learning, reimagined...

‘We are here to help’

The tri-colored posters along the walls of the Kent Career Tech Center offer a simple reminder to students who walk the facility’s halls: 'We are here to help'...

Kent ISD offers a mix of in-person, virtual instruction

Districts and Kent ISD staff have worked to get schools and programs ready for the 2020-2021 school year, while also adjusting to changing guidelines related to the coronavirus pandemic...
- Sponsorship -

HOW'S SCHOOL TODAY?

Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...

RADEMACHER & FRIENDS

Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -

MEDIA PARTNERS

Maranda Where You LiveWGVU

SUSTAINING SPONSORS