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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.

‘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...

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...

SNN Series Shows Team Approach Can Help Students Overcome Poverty

I knew there was poverty up there in northern Kent County, but I didn’t know it felt this cold. Flossie Bliss sat in a plastic lawn chair in her mobile home, wrapped in a coat. The November chill seeping through...

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...

State Poverty Numbers Grim, but Local Student Advocates See Signs of Hope

Lynn Heemstra has been working to improve the lives of Grand Rapids children since 1998. As executive director of Our Community’s Children, a nonprofit advocacy agency, Heemstra has seen some success in getting youths into after-school programs and other...

First Generation College Student Struggles to Fit In

Jordan Lovett feels a little like a puzzle piece that doesn't quite fit lately. She sits in the Moose Cafe at Aquinas College holding a cup of hot cocoa and reflects on the last semester. "It was really stressful," she...

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...

Providing Equity in Education Can Mean Everything to a Child

In science, a paradigm shift occurs when there is a change in underlying assumptions, when conventional wisdom comes into question as a result of something that doesn't fit the pattern. In my early childhood years, my family perfectly fit the...

The Road to Success in a High-Poverty School: It’s All About Collaboration, Expectations

 In Holly Vostad’s North Godwin Elementary School classroom, kindergarteners sat in circles on the rug, discussing what they planned to write about: A weekend at their father’s. Christmas. Snow. Their favorite things. They soon headed to their desks, pulling...

How Hunger Hurts Learning: Schools Seek to Feed Students’ Tummies and Minds

The list of ways hunger can affect a child's health is a long one. Chronic health issues like asthma, behavioral issues like anxiety and social issues like bullying are just a part of that list. Nan Evans has seen children...

Beyond Reading and Writing: School Nurses Serve Main Point of Contact for Many Low-Income...

Editor's Note: The Burden of Poverty: A Backpack of Heartache is a continuing series examining the problems poverty creates for students and their families, plus the schools and strategies that are helping disadvantaged students succeed A student stays home sick because of problems with...

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...

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...

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...

Student Describes Experiences, Obstacles of Living in Poverty

Lee High School senior Jordan Lovett headed to cross-country practice after her final class of the day. Along the way, she stopped to listen to a middle school student play his instrument. She then took a moment to chat with...

‘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...
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