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The Burden of Poverty

A series on poverty in the schools and how it affects students’ learning. We examine the problems poverty creates for students and their families and the schools and strategies that are helping disadvantaged students succeed.

Teachers Join Forces to Feed Families in Need

Lee Middle School eighth-grader Jonathan Lopez helped distribute food from a Feeding America Mobile Food Pantry truck recently to Godfrey-Lee Public Schools families. "Some people don't have enough food and most get paid minimum wage so they need help," said...

Brain Games: Focusing on Memory to Reduce Effects of Poverty

Second-grade teacher Patrick Sokol is working to close gaps in achievement seen in students raised in poverty, and he's zeroing in on helping students develop "working memory." In his West Elementary classroom on a Friday morning, Sokol drew a mixing...

Poverty Persists Out in the Country, Out of Sight

Nine-year-old Marisol is doing handstands and 16-year-old Rocio makes a peanut butter sandwich as their mother describes her dreams for them. “I want them to be self-sufficient,” Flossie Bliss says of her daughters, who also include Gloria, 13, and Stephanie,...

With Love and High Expectations, Top Teachers Nurture Good Students

The boy was not having a good day. A new student in Vicki Boase’s second-grade classroom, Ja’Quon sat scowling in his seat while other students were getting to work. Boase took him into the hall and had a talk....

Wanted: A House We Can Afford

Dawn Broene is well aware of the challenges of finding affordable housing in the Lowell area. Breone, director of Flat River Outreach Ministries, said the organization's social worker hears from three to five families a week who are having trouble...

Migrant Students a Part of County’s Poverty Picture

In Kent City Community Schools, where some 53 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, the usual problems of poverty persist. But the issues are heightened because of the district’s significant migrant worker population working in northern...

Great Teachers Make a Lasting Difference, Studies Show

The old adage that having one great teacher can make a big difference in a student’s life is true, research shows – especially for a student struggling with poverty. Not surprisingly, having more than one great teacher can make an...

Report: Are We Caring for Our Children? Not Well Enough

When Carol Paine-McGovern sees child poverty continuing to rise in Kent County, she takes some comfort in the work local schools and their communities are doing to relieve its burden on students. She’s intimately involved in that work as...

‘I’ll be Forever Grateful,’ Single Mom Says of Community’s Help

Flossie Bliss has a strong faith in God, but her faith in people has been renewed. The Cedar Springs single mother of four was astonished by the generosity of community members who came to her aid after they read of...

‘You Can Be a Victim or a Victor,’ Homeless Coordinator Tells Teens

Conversations between Aliya Armstrong and her students usually begin with the same question: "How are you doing?" For the students who show up in Armstrong's East Kentwood High School office, that query often results in a complicated answer. As the...

Got Breakfast?

Just after the morning school bell rings, West Kelloggsville Elementary School teacher Joy Howard calls up her kindergartners one-by-one to hand them breakfast. They settle back in their seats to sip milk and juice, nibble cereal, crunch apples and...

Nonprofit Helps Students Boost Test Scores, Confidence Through Free Private Tutoring

Townline Elementary School fourth-grader Kadyn Toris has made huge gains in reading since he began receiving private tutoring at Streams of Hope. Since second grade, Kadyn has attended a total of six 12-week sessions inside the food pantry at the...

Grand Rapids Gets Behind Getting Students to School

Antonio Zavala is the kind of student Grand Rapids Public Schools has been cultivating recently: the kind who comes to school every day, on time and ready to learn. The 11-year-old fifth-grader at Sibley Elementary School on Grand Rapids' Northwest...

Overcoming homelessness to get her degree, she’s ready to help others

Jordan Lovett, once homeless, graduated from Grand Valley State University with a bachelor’s degree in social work. She is eager to advocate for others facing similar struggles to her own...

Offering Help Where It’s Needed, School and Home

When Rosalba Cruz was facing eviction from her mobile home because she was behind on rent, her daughter Anahi noticed she was stressing out. The fifth-grader at Alpine Elementary School suggested someone who might help. “There’s a person that speaks Spanish...

Lee High School: A Tale of the Need for Equity

Lee High School freshman Paul Villarreal wrote down his vocabulary words: "zest," "campaigner," "poliomyelitis" and "delegate" while in the Scholastic READ 180 classroom. The program, which blends online and teacher-led instruction, helps students become better readers. "It has helped me...
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