Madelynn Deleon Roblero scurried up the steps of the House of Fordham, her little arms clutching bags containing canned food, toiletries and other goods.
While she did not know who would receive the goodies, she knew she wanted to help those in need.
In a card she wrote to her new friends living at the House of Fordham shelter, she encouraged them to have faith in her Lord, who would help them through their tough times. And, in return, she asked her friends to pay it forward.
“You may not know who I am, and I may not know who you are, but I want to help you because you have nothing while I have everything,” Roblero wrote. “Things will get better. I know my Lord will help you.
“You can pray to him and sooner or later you will have a home and everything you did not have, but you got to have faith he will help you out just like he helped me.”
Roblero and several other students in the Strive to Thrive program at Brogden Primary, Carver Elementary and Spring Creek Elementary schools visited with those less fortunate Thursday afternoon. With them, the students brought hundreds of canned goods, toiletries, toothbrushes, blankets and more that they collected from their schools.
“(The students) just wanted them to know that although they aren’t going through the struggle together, and that (the students) may not know them, but they are with them, they support them, and they wanted this community to feel their love,” said Justin Willoughby, program director of Strive to Thrive.
Strive to Thrive is an after-school program offered at Brogden Primary, Brogden Middle, Carver Elementary and Spring Creek Elementary schools through Venture Rehabilitation in partnership with Wayne County Public Schools. The program is new to the schools for the 2018-19 school year, and aids students who struggle academically.
“Some kids come from different backgrounds where they don’t have the support from home, and this allows them to get all their homework done,” Willoughby said. “The teachers are noticing the efforts are different.
“Every kid, every question they have, (the teachers) spend a lot of quality time making sure they understand, whether it be division, fractions or how to read.”
Students work on homework and are offered an academic lesson during the after-school program. Topics range from architecture, art, sports and developing social skills. The goal is to prepare the students for end-of-grade testing, but they also learn how to develop communication skills and take on service projects such as collecting canned goods for people in need.
While the program is still new, Willoughby said teachers are noticing a change in the students’ grades.
“We’re working with a wide range of backgrounds, and some kids might not be able to speak English, and that might be the barrier which is preventing some of the academic progression,” Willoughby said. “Allowing them to have the bilingual teachers we have to translate and help them with language in those areas has definitely allowed them to succeed academically.
“We’ve already seen a lot of progress through the report cards.”
As part of the after-school program, the students took on a service project to help people who do not have access to food and housing. Teachers and students began discussing homeless shelters, and the children found a way to identify with the people living in shelters, Willoughby said.
Students wrote “impact cards” for the residents of the House of Fordham, which shelters people who are homeless and distributes food to those in need. Students sought to give words of encouragement to the people living at the House of Fordham, Willoughby said.
“The kids were incredibly excited,” Willoughby said. “They drew pictures, they used impactful words such as encourage, care, love, support — every single kid went above and beyond.”
The students also decorated large boxes, which were placed in the hallways of each school to collect canned goods and toiletries. In total, the students collected more than 500 items to hand deliver to the House of Fordham.
“What was cool was some kids don’t have much, but they just gave a canned good, which tells you how much they wanted to be a part of something,” Willoughby said. “Every single kid brought something. That goes to show the sacrifices they are willing to make to help others.”