THORNTON, Colo. — Schools with diverse families have diverse needs, and McElwain Elementary in Thornton is embracing those families with differences and meeting them where they are at.
McElwain has 85% of students on free or reduced lunch. The school also has a large population of those who speak other languages. There are even a number of students who are part of families that are refugees who are resettling.
As a result, the staff at the school noticed that families had different needs from others.
"I knew that there was a population in need of items," said Principal Sara Olson. "We had a lot of students that had come without coats, proper shoes, socks, things like that. So just talking with families, engaging with families, we knew there was a huge need."
The staff came up with the idea of the 'Brontosaurus Boutique,' a free pantry for any family who has a student at the school.
"We really believe in the philosophy that it takes a village, and we partner with families and we partner with the community. So for us, we feel really privileged that they look at us as a resource not just as someone who can educate their students, but someone that can help in general," said Olson.
The pantry offers everything from clothing, food, backpacks, cultural items and other necessities such as sanitary items. The staff felt like it was important to include items that weren't just for students, but also for their parents.
"Education has come a really long way. It used to be that it was just about teaching math and reading and now, it’s really not. It’s not anymore. If you are going into education, you are educating the whole child, the whole human being. Kids can’t learn if they’re hungry. Kids can’t learn if they’re cold. Kids can’t learn if they see mom and dad crying at night because they don’t have what they need," said Olson. "Our first priority as humans serving humans is to make sure that they have all these things, and that’s why this is here and that’s why we are here."
Teachers also back the pantry and help to point parents to the resource.
"For me, it just gives me a sense of pride knowing that not only am I here to serve my students, but I am here to offer more than just education to other families," said Francela Espinosa, a first grade teacher. "It’s important that I work at a school like this because of the high needs that our students and families have. To me, working at this school is so important because of what we are able to provide and offer to the families that we serve."
At least one family typically accesses the boutique everyday. So it's important to keep it restocked. However, keeping items full is a difficult task when there is such a need for help.
The school relies on donations to keep the shelves full, but they are putting out the call to the community to ask for help to keep it stocked.
The items most in need are: dish soap, soap, deodorant, toothbrushes, sanitary items, diapers and blankets.
If you would like to donate, you are asked to contact the Sarah Olson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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