Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Food for Thought

School in Bibb County is about to be out for summer. And while for some kids that means staying up late, push-up pops, pool parties and the lazy days of those Country Time lemonade commercials, there is a large percentage of children in Bibb County who are wondering where they will get their next meal without a lunchroom.

A couple of weeks ago, Mom’s Leadership Macon class focused on education. The day was spent taking the English and Math portion of the 8th grade CRCT test (Mom scored perfect on English; not so much on Math), riding on a yellow school bus, touring the old and new Central High School, eating a delicious lunch prepared by Hutching’s Career Center’s culinary program and listening to Bibb County School Board officials better explain the local public school system.

What struck Mom the most is when Superintendent Sharon Patterson discussed the number of economically disadvantaged children within the system. Not only does 73 percent of the entire school system population fall under this category, but there are some schools with a 97 percent poverty rate. These students qualify for free and reduced lunch provided by the school. And what these numbers mean, Patterson said, is many students return to school on Mondays hungry because when not in school, “They literally do not eat.”

She went on to explain that the impact of generation poverty versus social poverty is what further weighs down our school system. So what can we do to impact the level of generation poverty in our community? Change the course of a life, one child at a time. Give one child the gateway to work for something better in life. Once that door is opened, whether through a high school diploma, college degree, technological certification or job skills training, the generational path to poverty has been altered, possibly forever.

For Mom and her fellow mentors with the Mentors Project of Bibb County, a minimum of four hours a month with their protégés can accomplish this. There are over 200 children currently enrolled in the Mentors Project, and 95 percent of them receive free and reduced lunch. The majority of them are unmatched males, and the waiting list continues to swell. This summer, these students need mentors more than ever, so that they return to school this fall, their hunger didn’t take away from their thirst for knowledge.

A couple of years ago, Mom and her comrades in the Little Creative Crew (Texas T, Bright Blue and Honey Shot), helped coordinate a fundraiser for the Mentors Project with a photography show on the Macon Housing Authority's Pendleton Homes. Two protégés in the Mentors Project were armed with cameras (for the first time), and set out to make art out of the only place they have ever known as home. There are still several beautiful, double-matted and framed portraits left for sale. Send me a Candygram (maconcandy@gmail.com) if you would like to find out more about purchasing one of them or how you can become a mentor. And if you are looking for a little inspiration in your day, check out the video that was created in conjunction with the photo exhibit. Turn it up, y'all.

Portraits of Pendleton from Tabitha Lynne Walker on Vimeo.

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