There's an estimated 8,000 homeless students living in Mississippi. This week, the educators that work closest with them are taking some classes for themselves to make their students more successful. The educators are also taking home some essentials for their students. They're items many of us may take for granted.
Backpacks filled with items most of us may not worry much about consume the State Department of Education. There's food, toiletries and school supplies.
Donnell Bell works in the State Department of Education's dropout prevention office. Bell says "to have a healthy snack, to have toiletries to have the essential tools just to go to school a lot of students miss school because they don't have the essential tools."
The nearly 2,000 backpacks were donated to the state by "Feed the Children." The bags will go to homeless students across the state.
"We want to feed them emotionally, educationally and physically," says Wendy Polk, the Communications Director for the State Department of Education.
Thousands of educators like Dr. Laretta Marks are in Jackson for a conference on homeless education and dropout prevention. Dr. Marks works for the Harrison County School District. Dr. Marks says, Harrison County has one of the highest percentages of homeless students in the state."We have approximately 1,700 students who are homeless and many times homeless doesn't mean staying in a shelter or abandoned park."
Dr. Marks says she'll take many of the backpacks back to her students. "Many do not realize that just to walk in a classroom and have a backpack like all of the other students makes a difference."
All of the backpacks have been sorted and packaged with educational age appropriate items. For instance, younger students may get a "Baby Einstein" book set, while older students can take a stab at a New York Times bestseller.
During the conference, educators are learning about what they can do to make life easier for their most vulnerable students.
Bell says, "the whole purpose is to empower them with the tools they need, so that they can empower their students, so that their students can successfully matriculate in the K-12 setting."
According to the "National Center on Family Homelessness," Mississippi ranks 41 out of 50 for the percentage of homeless children living in the state.
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