by Jim Mascolo
Greenlee Elementary is the newest school served by Food for Thought of Denver. A quarter of Greenlee’s students receive weekend backpacks from Food for Thought each week. Alex Monk, the Community Engagement Specialist at Greenlee reached out to Food for Thought back in October.
“I heard about the program through a colleague of mine at Fairview Elementary. Everyone here was energized about the program, especially the connection we saw to increasing attendance.” School attendance at Greenlee is traditionally lower on Fridays and Monk regards the weekend PowerSacks as one incentive for students to come to school. He believes Food for Thought is at least part of the reason for an uptick in Friday attendance from last year at this time.
About 97% of Greenlee’s students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. That represents a high level of poverty and Greenlee’s students have struggled to achieve on state-wide performance tests. The school is just coming out of a five-year school turnaround process. That process involved recruiting new staff and instituting a new curriculum.
“We’re also trying to build in a social and emotional support network.” Monk mentions. The majority of Greenlee students attend after school programs offered by the Bridge Project, Colorado I Have a Dream and the Boys and Girls Clubs among others. “Our kids’ success depends a lot on how they arrive at school each day—how stressed they are. Food for Thought goes a long way toward alleviating the home stress over the weekend.”
Monk has only compliments for Food for Thought’s work at Greenlee. He notes how happy the kids are to see the volunteers delivering the PowerSacks on Fridays. “The kids are genuinely grateful. You can see it in the way they greet Bob and the other volunteers in the hallways. The kids realize it’s something they get to take home to their families that’s special and means a lot to their families.” Monk ends our interview with a note of promise, “I think someday when these kids are adults they’ll look back at what has been done for them and they’ll want to reciprocate for others in need.”
Greenlee faces an uphill challenge to meet the school district’s performance standards. Although this year’s final standardized test results aren’t yet in, interim testing conducted throughout the year suggests Greenlee’s students may be turning a corner. The school is hoping to raise their rating from red to orange and possibly even to yellow on the district’s School Performance Framework. We at Food for Thought of Denver are proud to be even a some small part of that improvement.