During times of uncertainty, crisis, concern or confusion, we fiercely look for heroes. For the youngest among us, it might be someone who can make things better or tell us that everything is going to be all right.
Corey Parker is one of those unsung heroes and hidden leaders working to make the world better, one classroom at a time.
“Being an educator was not my first choice. My intentions were to maybe work a year or two in the school system and then move on to do something else,” said Parker, a Charlotte Mecklenburg teacher.
He admitted that once he began working with children and building relationships with them that it became hard for him to stop.
“Here I am 10 years later. Still working in the school system,” Parker said. “I wouldn’t say that I chose to work in the school system. I would say the school system chose me.”
The classroom often becomes a safe place where dedicated educators quickly have to pivot from teaching to mentoring and advocacy.
For students of low-income families, not having adequate school supplies can drastically change their trajectory for a successful future.
“There’s always going to be a situation where a student is in need, and you’d rather make sure that that student has what they need rather than go without,” he said.
On average, teachers spend $1,000 on school supplies every year.
“In the school system, you’re going to deal with a lot of students who, unfortunately, are going through a lot more hardships than some of the other students, so if you see a student that unfortunately, you know, can’t afford a notebook or pens or pencils, you’re going to make sure that they don’t go without,” Parker said.
Pencils, paper, notebooks and anything related to learning — sometimes, even clothing and toiletries — are some of the things teachers will dip into their wallets to buy for students in need.
“It’s just something that I feel like teachers and educators have in their heart,” he said. “They want to make sure, and they want what’s best for their students.”
Imagine a child struggling and being teased by other children for not having what they need in class.
They might feel ashamed or that they don’t belong.
They might feel embarrassed asking to borrow a pencil or paper every day.
They will not likely be motivated and could have issues with their mental wellness.
“It has a huge effect on their self-esteem, and I’ve noticed that a lot of students would rather sit in that classroom quietly and just not do any work rather than announce in front of the classroom that they don’t have a pencil,” he said.
Thankfully, for some teachers, there is a place where they receive donated school supplies.
Classroom Central’s Free Store is a retail operation where teachers and other school personnel from eligible schools shop for free supplies throughout the academic year.
All materials distributed are used to create inviting learning environments and to support the academic and personal growth of students whose families lack the resources needed to purchase school supplies.
“It’s a huge resource. Most get their supplies from Classroom Central,” Parker said.
In addition to basic supplies — such as pencils, paper, notebooks, glue sticks and folders — teachers will find backpacks, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) materials and lesson plans, a literacy section that includes books and lesson plans, copy paper, arts and crafts materials, classroom decorations, cleaning supplies, personal care items and more.
Since 1997, in partnership with Classroom Central and Communities in Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, the WSOC-TV 9 School Tools program has collected school supplies, which are then distributed free to students in grades K-12.
Covering 22 counties, 9 School Tools is the largest school supply drive in the Carolinas and will run now through Aug. 31.
“There’s never any small amount of donations that won’t make a huge impact on a student’s life. These little supplies that are small things to some people are really huge to other people,” Parker said.
While Parker said it is easy to think that simply donating a pencil might be seen as a small gesture that might not go very far in solving a student’s most difficult problems, he does think that development is built on a bedrock of small actions.
“I think it is important for the community to know about our kids,” he said. “To make sure that they’re constantly supplied with those items so that they’re able to get the same kind of education as all the other students.”
You can donate the school supplies at any Arby’s, Ashley HomeStore, E.R. Plumbing Services and Charlotte Fire Department stations.
Financial donations can also be made to the 9 School Tools program that supports Classroom Central.
Learn more about 9 School Tools at www.9SchoolTools.com.
If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, public affairs manager at WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.
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