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Southeastern students with the education honor society Kappa Delta Pi, as well as other volunteers, prepare backpacks with healthy snacks and children’s books that are distributed weekly to needy children at Midway School in Hammond. The program, “Blessings in a Backpack,” is part of a nationwide effort to assist children living at or below the poverty level.
Chantal Shoemake, Past President, Kappa Delta Pi, Zeta Kappa Chapter
Kyle LeBoeuf, President, KDP, Zeta Kappa Chapter
Nicki Anzelmo-Skelton, Associate Professor of Education
When Southeastern education major Chantal Shoemake read about Blessings in a Backpack, a national program designed to assist underprivileged school children, she envisioned something similar for the Hammond community.
After researching the program, which provides a weekend supply of healthy snacks and reading materials for eligible children, she persuaded her fellow members of the Southeastern chapter of the international education honor society Kappa Delta Pi to adopt Blessings in a Backpack as their community service project.
Southeastern student volunteers take a break from stuffing backpacks. Pictured from left to right are (kneeling),
“I found out about this project in a magazine article that highlighted actress Scarlet Johansson and her work with Blessings in a Backpack,” said Shoemake, a special education teacher in Livingston Parish and former president of KDP’s Southeastern chapter.
The chapter adopted the program and selected Midway Elementary School in Hammond as their project school. Recipients of the backpacks, provided by the national organization, are approximately 40 students at Midway who currently qualify for free or reduced-fee lunches.
“Approximately 66 percent of the children in the Hammond area live at or below the poverty level, so there is a need for this kind of effort,” explained Nicki Anzelmo-Skelton, associate professor of education and faculty adviser to the KDP chapter. “Children in our area are fortunate to get a nutritious breakfast and lunch on school days. The weekends are a different matter. Many of these children don’t eat, or eat very little, when they aren’t in school.”
Kyle LeBoeuf, current president of the chapter, said after the success of the fall 2011 semester, the program has expanded from helping 40 students to nearly 80 children. The organization is working closely with Southeastern’s service organization Gamma Beta Phi, the Hammond Kiwanas Club and several local churches to pull together the supplies needed to stock the backpacks. LeBoeuf said the average cost to provide for a child is $80 a year.
Student volunteers meet weekly to stuff the packs and distribute them at Midway with another group picking the backpacks up the following week to repeat the process.
“This project has touched the hearts of many teacher candidates, some of whom have donated many volunteer hours to ensuring the children at Midway receive a Blessing in a Backpack each Friday,” LeBoeuf said.
“Our students gain much from this program,” Anzelmo-Skelton remarked. “They learn about meeting the needs of the whole child, not just their academic needs. They learn about the importance of giving back to their communities. It gives me a wonderful sense of pride to see the kinds of adults we are helping to mold in our college. Through projects like this, our students are becoming more compassionate adults who live with a strong sense of importance of service to others.”
Current chairs for the project are Lindsey Falgoust and Emily Melancon. For more information on Blessings in a Backpack, contact Kappa Delta Pi at email@example.com.