By Tim Kean
A carpenter standing behind a table in the school gym says to a nine year old “This is a picture of a house that I’m building, pointing to some tools on the table he says “these are some of the tools that I’m using”. Then pointing to a certificate he says “This is how I got the training to learn how to do this kind of work”. He says, “I like what I do, it pays well and someone will have a nice place to live when I’m finished. Go ahead, pick up any tool you’d like and see what it feels like”. He might also say, “I lived next door to a carpenter when I was a kid and he let me work with him when I was old enough”.
At the next table, a young woman dressed in her work uniform had a similar conversation with a young girl in the 5th grade about what it’s like to work as an EMT. She has some equipment on the table and offered to let the girl pick it up as she describes some of the ways she helps some very sick people get the immediate medical attention they need. She shows the 5th grader the certificate she got when her training was completed. She has a picture of her and an elderly woman using a walker, which she was able to help who had fallen at home and needed to be rushed to the hospital.
The Second Harvest school initiative has been rebranded “The Big Idea” and we are in the rollout phase with all the schools that have connected with us as school is getting ready to start. We will begin our 4th year with this initiative in August. By the end of this year’s spring semester we had partnered with 29 schools in 8 counties and this fall that number will move up to 35 schools. This initiative is based on relationship building between the families of the school and the school staff. Over time, this positive experience in relationship building has led to increases in student attendance, decreases in incidences of negative student behavior, more parental engagement in school activities, just to name a few.
Ideally, the stage is set with upbeat music playing, greeters at the check-in table, a few community resources at tables to talk with the families such as a healthcare provider, a financial institution, the library or other ready-to- engage providers. A food distribution is also provided. A theme for the evening that might include a focus on book fair, a carnival, movie night or any other creative idea that the school may organize. The opportunity to engage kids and their families with a couple of career-focused interactions each month can be the seeds that plant a career desire in a child’s mind. All this can help a child to consider what they find interesting as a possible career and discover the training path to get there. It could be a post-secondary degree, an employment certification or an apprenticeship.
The Big Idea is designed for kids to dream big about their future stories, for families to encounter resources and relationship with a welcoming school staff that are partners with them to help foster big dreams. Schools viewed as welcoming, safe, fun and nurturing are what attracts and builds community. Our role is to shorten the line of need by providing kids the opportunity to become self-sustaining adults as they grow into “The Big Idea” future they vision as a child. Contact Sunni Matters, our leader of this initiative at 765-287-8698 if you would like to play a role in a child’s future by sharing what you do.
Tim Kean is the President and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana. The Second Harvest Food Bank network of 115-member agencies, programs and 29 schools provide food assistance and relationship building to more than 65,000 low-income people facing daily instability in Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Henry, Jay, Madison, Randolph and Wabash Counties.