Several different topics were covered during the Partners for HOPE Center Coalition meeting on Monday, February 27th. Updates were presented for the One Step Up student group, Helping Hands clothing center at the former Lincoln School on North 10th Street, an update on progress in the Alternative School and a bullying prevention grant recently awarded to the Lamar schools.
Director Lori Hammer said attendance continues to show gains. There are some week to week fluctuations, but participation remains high with an average of 154 kids per day for February. She noted, “We’ve come such a long way from our early days over a decade ago. When we were located back at our East Elm Street location, some days we’d have just three students for the afternoon.”
The Helping Hands center also has strong participation with their clothing donation operation. Hammer told the Coalition members there were 70 people who showed up and took away 700 articles of clothing for their families. “They really don’t need a lot of donations as there’s now a surplus of family clothing with the exception of men’s slacks or pants and some special sizes,” she explained. Helping Hands is open the third Saturday of the month from 9am to 11am at the Lincoln School, operating out of several former classrooms where the clothing is displayed.
One Step Up students continue to meet to discuss ways and means to help improve their community. Some visits have included the tree farm as well as prioritizing five projects under consideration. Anita Zavala said one concern among the students is a way to have a grass covering for the playground at the Lincoln School. She said the students are getting suggestions on how to proceed to have that idea accomplished.
Anthony LaTour, the instructor and director of the Lincoln Alternative School said the classes are now entering their second semester for their first year of operation. The Alternative School works with at-risk students at the high school level, providing them with a series of alternative classes as well as their core curriculum, to help them graduate through some different modes of teaching. LaTour said, “We’ve received some new computers, keyboards and monitors through the Lincoln School and the students appreciate the new equipment.” He added that some future events are anticipated by the classes including a video and a visit by Coffin Nachtmahr on March 6th and on March 10th. The professional Yo-Yo thrower combines his skills with various motivational seminars which offer an appeal to students and their families. The March 10th event will be held at Lincoln School that evening, combined with a family night sponsored by the newly formed SPARK group, or Strong People Armed with Radical Knowledge. Rigo and Sonja Munoz said their organization wants to provide a source for empowerment for families and students alike. The event, which starts at 5:30pm, will offer a fun evening, combining food, music, crafts and empowerment sessions with guest speakers. The event is free.
LaTour added that the district has been awarded just under $600,000 to be over several years for an anti-bullying program which will begin at MHDC, pre-school and kindergarten students and into the middle and high schools. The bulk of the funding, he stated, will be used to equip school staff with bullying prevention techniques and educational materials. The schools will be given the tools they need to develop their programs around the campaign. He expected the program to begin the first weeks of school next year. “Teachers and students usually have to deal with a lot of concerns on Monday, following all the facebook and social media communications that seems to increase over the weekends. A lot of kids bring that baggage back to school with them on Mondays and the intent is to diffuse that,” he explained. He added that the first year’s funding will be about $150,000 and will be used to equip educators with materials that accompany the program. LaTour said the funding comes from the state’s marijuana taxes that were included in the amendment which legalized recreational marijuana and was approved by voters several years ago. He added that KVAY radio is considering offering its expertise to help develop a music room at Lincoln School which could broadcast future athletic events, film games and stream them online. The idea is just at the discussion level at this point, he said.
Hammer said donations continue to be received, including a $1,000 check from Lamar Auto Parts from December of last year, $200 from LCM Missions, a monthly contribution, $500 from the District Attorney’s office, $100 from PMC and $50 from Lauriate Rho Sorority. Gail Schroeder noted that Zonta and the Yada-Yada Sisterhood group are combing to assist with the annual ‘Girls Wanna Have Fun’ event and she noted that some special entertainment from several of the town’s menfolk will be featured during the March 25th dinner at the Elks Lodge this year.
By Russ Baldwin
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