By N. Hamilton, M. Ed, MLS
HOUSTON – Most people are unaware that in the U.S., approximately 1 in 5 children under the age of 18 live in poverty, shouldering more than they should have to. In Houston, this number is even greater.
Amidst our beautiful multi-million-dollar campus, one may forget that majority of Booker T. Washington High students are affected by poverty as well. When walking down the halls; unfortunately, one can witness many of these unspoken realities.
The past few weeks in Houston has been unusually cold, and several students have been arriving to school without jackets. Some students do not have any form of transportation, and many are too embarrassed to mention this to friends and teachers. Several students do not have food in their homes and are also considered the bread winners and caretakers of the smaller children that reside in the home. Many have lost siblings, relatives, and friends to senseless shootings. Let’s not forget about the basic needs that many of us take for granted like deodorant, tooth paste, feminine products, school supplies, and school uniforms; which are needed just to feel comfortable while attending school.
The Booker T. Washington staff refuses to ignore these problems and know we would do minority students a disservice if we were only concerned about their education in isolation. Each staff member has been trained to address the social and emotional needs of every student on campus, but we have gone much further than that… We have hired our very own Communities- in- Schools Support Manager, Tanya Hulbert, who is on campus daily working directly with students. She has been blessed with one of the most caring, endearing, and authentic personalities. When interviewing her, one can see how her kind spirit can put any individual at ease. She has this unspoken empathy that supersedes the requirements of the job.
Communities-in-Schools is one of the nation’s largest non-profit providers. It works directly inside schools, building relationships that empower students to succeed inside and outside the classroom. One of the organization’s guiding principles is understanding that, connectivity and genuine relationships can unlock a child’ full ability.
In less than five months, Mrs. Hulbert has met up with over 350 students and has provided majority of them with items such as uniforms, METRO bus passes, school supplies and backpacks. She has also partnered with outside agencies to bring job fair information, attendance incentives and services to students in foster care. Furthermore, she has provided support when students went into crisis mode after the shooting of a fellow student; she also provided an entire family with Christmas gifts via her Adopt a Family Initiative; but most importantly, she provides on-going mental health support on a daily basis when kids are in need.
At no point, does she feel sorry for our kids; instead she empowers them, listens to them and uplifts them during difficult moments in their lives. So, let us hold her up in the light of humility and love for the selfless job of eliminating emotional and physical barriers in the lives of minority students on our campus.