Fifth-graders in Stephanie Wyman’s class at Woodstock Elementary School wanted to make a difference in Virginia Beach, so she introduced them to a project about homelessness that’s designed to instill compassion and community awareness while practicing some math skills along the way.
“When we first start, they have this idea of what a homeless person looks like,” she explained. We talk about what causes homelessness, how people become homeless. And they find out that I, myself, was homeless, because I was a victim of Hurricane Katrina. It changes their mindset, it’s not an old guy out on a street corner, it could be anybody. It could be anybody in this classroom. It’s pretty neat to watch them grow as individuals and working together as a group to make this big difference. They get so excited.”
Students then raised funds on their own for six weeks. They made announcements at school, participated in bake sales, and performed yard work as well as extra chores.
Fifth-grader Henry Stith tapped multiple sources of income. “My dad took muffins to work and made $15 out of that,” he recounts. “My dad gave me $10 from his wallet. I raked leaves at my grandparents’ house. I helped around the house at my Nana’s and earned 20 bucks.”
Wyman worked with local shelters to determine what the needs are, then she, the students and some parents took a field trip to Walmart to buy those necessary items, which include hygiene products, socks, clothes, sheets, towels and sleeping bags.
Shannon Sutryk came on the trip at the request of her son Nolan, whom she said learned to bake just for this effort.
“They learn the value of money for sure. But they also learn that not everybody has everything that we are fortunate to have.”
Fifth-grader Kamari Bright brought $20 of her own savings to spend and believes that this project is something everyone could learn from.
“I still think you should still keep on doing it. I think you should still help the homeless.”
Wyman reports that the class raised over $3,400 and purchased more than 300 pairs of socks, more than 100 bottles of shampoo, 150 packs of hand/foot warmers, 500 bars of soap, 28 backpacks and countless razors, among other things.
“And made ONE huge difference,” she adds.
Students will deliver some goods to the Judeo Christian Outreach Center Dec. 17. The remainder will be donated to the homeless outreach non-profit 99 for the 1.