Not every child in Gainesville has the necessary tools to succeed in school, and a local honor society chapter is working to change that.
David Fortier, a student at Santa Fe College, noticed the need for school supplies for low-income families living in east Gainesville. In conjunction with Phi Theta Kappa, an international honor society, Fortier decided to organize a drive to help alleviate this problem.
The 2013 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey shows one out of every four children in Gainesville lives in poverty.
Fortier said he went online to research schools to participate in the drive and found that schools in the area of east Gainesville that are hit the hardest.
When he spoke to the schools’ guidance counselors, he heard stories of families that could not afford to provide their kids with backpacks or even clean underwear.
“There is a need for the community to step in and help raise the quality of life for these kids,” Fortier said.
The drive focuses on three schools: Charles W. Duval Elementary School, Howard W. Bishop Middle School and Abraham Lincoln Middle School, all of which have higher percentages of students receiving free or reduced lunch.
Mallory Becker, assistant principal for curriculum at Lincoln Middle, said in the community, there are a lot of parents who are working two or three jobs just to provide food, shelter and clothing for their families.
“School supplies kind of fall to the side because there are things that are much more important than having school paper,” she said.
When families aren’t able to provide the supplies to their children, Becker said the school is often responsible, but it’s not a part of their budget.
“They just can’t afford to give supplies to every single student, so we’re constantly asking people in the community to help us out because we want to make sure the kids have everything they need to get the education they deserve,” Becker said. “Every teacher can only do so much.”
Becker said they have a supportive Parent Teacher Association that works hard to raise additional money, but “it doesn’t even touch the surface of what we really need.”
This is where Fortier and Phi Theta Kappa can make a difference.
Fortier set up a GoFundMe page that raised more than $500 in two weeks. He shut down the page on Thursday due to the Oct. 15 deadline for purchasing supplies, but he is still collecting funds and supplies.
“We’ve also received supply donations,” he said. “Along with the money and a bake sale we will be having on Friday at Santa Fe, it’s going to be an excess around $1,500.”
Gabriella Groger, 19, who is also a member of Phi Theta Kappa, said she was interested in helping because she knows what its like to not have school supplies. Groger grew up with seven siblings, and school supplies always ran short.
“To think there are children that don’t even have anything, it was something that I could connect with personally through experience,” she said.
Groger said she thinks the children will be inspired to work harder in school because of the donations.
“They will be motivated to do well because other people worked to provide them with school materials they didn’t have,” Groger said.
Fortier said when he started asking schools about their need for supplies, he was unaware of how bad the situation really was.
“If there’s a kid that will no longer have to carry his things in his arms, that’s really the driving force behind working so hard to get this done,” Fortier said.
The supplies will be dropped off at the schools on Nov. 4.