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Lincoln County Schools elementary school students have been stepping up to help satisfy the needs of Hesed House of Hope, Lincoln County’s only homeless shelter. In this day and age of highly politicized and decisive rhetoric, compassion seems an important emotion to instill in young people.

Students at St. James Elementary School recently raised money to purchase sleeping bags and tents to be given out as needed to the homeless population in Lincoln County. While most of these students have no idea what it’s like to be homeless, teachers and administrators at the school have been including in their lesson plans windows into what it’s like to not have a home or their basic needs met.

“Over the summer, Dr. Aaron Allen told us about Hesed House losing a lot of their funding and what their needs were,” Shanti Clancy, principal at St. James Elementary said. “Most of their needs were smaller things like water and food and we knew other schools would have an easier time providing those things. They had bigger needs like the sleeping bags and tents so we decided that we would collect kids’ loose change and some of their parents made bigger donations.”

Students from K-2 raised money for sleeping bags and those from K-5 raised money for the tents. Clancy went to Walmart on two different occasions and bought all the sleeping bags and tents they had in stock. 

“Once we bought Walmart out of all they had, we still had some money left so we got some waterproof pillows,” she said. 

St. James Elementary is a “positivity project” school and focuses on one character trait per week schoolwide. 

“Every single day every teacher does a lesson on one character trait,” Clancy said. “We really pride ourselves on teaching our students directly what the important character traits are and how they can exhibit those traits in their own lives. Empathy is one of those traits and we teach them how many of us at St. James are very fortunate to live in nice houses and to be provided for. We still have a population in our school that aren’t that lucky, and we provide food for them on the weekends and over breaks and we have clothes closets for them.”

Our country in general is going through a period with a lot of hatred, Clancy added, but the community localized to St. James has been generous and kind. 

“Every day in the morning and afternoon we talk about making a choice to be kind to one another,” she said. “That’s what we pride our school community on being – kind. We try to carry that over into everything that we do.”

Not that long ago, students at St. James helped pack meals to be shipped to Nicaragua. As part of the project, there were lesson plans on the conditions the people of Nicaragua live in.

“For Hesed House, we talked about homelessness and how during the winter and the rainy months, if they don’t have a tent and a sleeping bag, they could get really sick,” she said. “Even my own children really wanted to dig under our couch for loose change to bring it in. When we’d drive through Lincolnton and they’d see people on the streets, they knew that’s who they were supporting. They even ask me to stop and give them money. I like seeing in my own children that they have empathy and want to give. I try to model that for them so that when they’re older, they’ll do the same.”

G.E. Massey Elementary and North Brook Elementary, which are both Title 1 schools, also gathered supplies to be delivered to Hesed House. They chose cleaning supplies, laundry detergent and bottled water. 

“Today's world is full of challenges, obstacles, ups and downs and hardships,” G.E. Massey Principal Kelly Withrow said. “As the principal at G.E. Massey my job is not only to raise test scores and be that strong instructional leader, but to form relationships with my students and families.”

As part of Withrow’s morning announcements, she ends by saying, "remember to give 100% and be respectful with everyone you come in contact with." 

“This is so important in today's world,” she said. “It doesn't matter if someone is smarter, a better athlete, prettier or more handsome. What really matters is how you treat people and the amount of respect you show for others.”

As a school, Withrow added, they like to support and show love to the community. Most recently, the school held a t-shirt sale for Juan Bravo's family, a third grader at G.E. Massey who was diagnosed with leukemia last year. 

“He has been a true fighter during this entire process,” she said. “He’s scheduled for a bone marrow transplant the first of November at Levine’s Children’s Hospital.”

The school raised more than $1,800 dollars in just two weeks through t-shirt sales. 

“Our own students are so excited about wearing their new shirts and showing support for Juan,” Withrow said. “The best part is that the kids know that by purchasing this shirt they are helping this sweet family with medical expenses. Our student body, as well as staff, have shown such love, support and strength during this difficult time. Everyone wants nothing more than to see our superhero Juan beat this disease.”

Jennifer Carroll, the principal at North Brook believes the giving nature of her students has to do with our community and that it starts at home. 

“Our students have always wanted to give back,” she said. “Last year North Brook led Lincoln County Schools with collecting 21,286 items for the canned food drive for Christian Ministry. The population that North Brook serves is not a rich community. However, the students have been taught at home that it is important to help others and in turn we reinforce those concepts. Our staff builds positive relationships with our students, family, and community. We build on our motto that it is always a great day to be a Blue Jay. It makes it an even greater day when we are able to help others.”

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