Monday July 31, 2023

Heat Wave Means Time to Coat A Kid

It’s hot outside. Really, really hot. It’s hard enough to be thinking about school starting in a few weeks and all that goes with it like shopping for new school supplies and back to school clothes. But every year at about this time we start thinking about winter coats for our kids at the OKCPS Foundation. The Coat-A-Kid program, run jointly with Oklahoma City Public Schools, raises funds to provide a new, warm winter coat for our students in need. While it’s miserable to even think about putting on a coat with the heat we’re experiencing, now is the critical time to raise money in order to get the coats ordered and delivered ahead of the cold weather that is coming in just a few months.

In Oklahoma, more than 15 percent of our population lives in poverty, which is nearly 22 percent higher than the U.S. average, according to www.usafacts.org. In Oklahoma City Public Schools, the statistics are even more dire. Nearly ninety percent of our 34,000 students/families live at or below the poverty line. What this means in terms of what our kids need is multi-faceted, and certainly reaches well beyond coats. Poverty isn’t just about a family living without financial means. There are a multitude of adverse social-emotional stresses that may be going along with it including food insecurity, job losses, bankruptcy, mental health issues, substance abuse, divorce, having a family member incarcerated, lack of transportation, eviction/homelessness, etc. One of these situations would be difficult to handle, but some families experience many at one time and all of these adverse experiences affect our kids.

Our OKCPS educators are trained to develop supportive relationships with our students, which is known to provide healing to chronic stress.  While the journey is ongoing, data supports very positive outcomes for students who are provided equitable opportunities and the ability to learn in a school culture that helps students succeed by developing a growth mindset with relationships, achievement, rich classroom culture and engagement. www.gettingsmart.com

Talking about coats in the heat of summer may seem illogical, but it’s truly the perfect time logistically. Talking about coats when the needs are so great may seem like a band aid to the much larger problem of poverty in our community – and it is. The fact is that our schools can’t do it alone and thousands of our students will not have a winter coat without the help of our community each year and that is not acceptable. There are many ways to help, but the Coat-A-Kid program is a simple, tangible way to support students. Please go to www.okckids.com/coat-a-kid

–Mary Mélon-Tully, President and CEO of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation.

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