This year our Federation’s Community Relations Committee (CRC) is spearheading an outreach initiative to Monroe Elementary School. The school was identified as one of the South Bend public schools most in need of help. We are asking for volunteers from our community to join us in helping Monroe Elementary School as mentor/tutors.
According to Brian Harris, Principal of Monroe Elementary School, a majority of the children of Monroe Elementary School take part in a daily free breakfast and free lunch program. The fact that they qualify for the National School Lunch Program is an indicator that a majority of this school’s families are living in poverty. This fact has a direct impact on the educational performance of the children, especially on standardized tests.
We know from research that there is a direct correlation between poverty and low performance in school. The Children’s Defense Fund, founded by Marian Wright Edelman, explains the connection on its website. “Children living in poverty and children of color often begin school behind their peers, as they are less likely to have been provided access to high-quality early development and learning opportunities like Head Start programs.”
And this is only one factor that explains a much wider problem. Here in South Bend, we can see the problem reflected in the standardized test scores of students in South Bend schools.
According to the 2022 results of the Indiana standardized test called ILEARN, only 9.8% of students in grades 3-8 in South Bend schools demonstrated that they are proficient in tests in English/ language arts and math. The overall statewide performance of proficiency was 37%.
Here is where we can make a difference to help bridge that gap.
In the initial meeting with Principal Brian Harris of Monroe Elementary School, he said he was very appreciative of our offer of help. We proposed mentoring/tutoring for children in reading and math. We also plan to bring successful minority members of our community to speak to the children to help them envision ideas for careers in their future. The possibilities include careers in the trades such as carpentry, electrical and in professions including business, law, medicine and science.
Our outreach program will consist of volunteers not only from our Jewish community, but also from our wider non-Jewish community in South Bend. It is hoped that our volunteers will give the children the feeling that someone out there cares and will help them to envision a better life.
Michael Poole, a veteran community leader who runs a successful mentoring program for at-risk youth, was the first to suggest the initiative to us. He said, “These are our kids, our community and our future. We cannot just sit idly by and not give them the support and encouragement they need to succeed.”
We agree with Michael Poole. We cannot change the world but maybe we can make a difference in our own small community.
Community Relations Director