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Column: Give Thanks, but Remember Many Still Need Help

District 202 officials see every day the reality of students who don't have enough to eat and families caught in the economic recession.

Now is the time when most of us start to think of the upcoming holiday season, and give thanks for the many good things in our lives.

Our students continue to do well in and out of the classroom. Our teachers work hard every day to provide the best possible educational experience for all of our students.

Our staff and board of education sacrifice daily to save taxpayers’ money and struggle to use our limited resources cost effectively and efficiently on behalf of our students. Our families support all of this work to the best of their abilities.

Yes, has much to be thankful for.

Yet, despite these and many other celebrations and successes for which we are rightly grateful, there are also many causes for concern that must be addressed every day.

Many of our children come to school hungry, without proper supplies to learn, or clothing to keep them warm.

Some come from homes broken by the terrible weight of this ongoing recession. Their parents cannot find jobs to make the money needed to put food on the table. Their families are stressed to the breaking point by challenges no one thought possible only a few short years ago when houses were popping up as fast as the corn fields could be cut down.

I share this perspective now, because it often gets lost amid the festive holiday spirit that naturally occurs this time of year.

Unfortunately, schools face this reality every day.

We educate and serve every student who enters our doors, gladly and proudly. But we know – because we see it every day – that not all students are equal, especially when it comes to family resources.

That’s why it is so important that we as a community continue to give what we can to help others who are less fortunate, and not just at holiday season. The amount isn’t as important as the action.

In the end though it doesn’t matter who you give to – whether it’s your church/synagogue/temple, a food pantry, a homeless shelter or a local service agency.

As just one example, proudly supports the United Way of Will County. With the support of both of our employee associations, we actively encourage our staff to donate to the United Way, whose 45 local member agencies help our students, families and communities every day.

I am proud to say that students and staff in all of our schools raise and donate money, clothing and food all year long – often pennies at a time.

The main point is that when we give of ourselves, we’re helping someone else. And that “someone” probably works in our community, lives in our neighborhood, and has children in our schools that sometimes need a little helping hand to achieve their maximum potential.

I am grateful for many things this holiday season, including the generous spirit of service seen every day in our community. Together, we will continue to prepare learners for the future. That includes helping them through tough times.

Dr. John Harper is the superintendent of Plainfield School District 202.

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