CMSD Features School Uniform Clothing Drive in News

Tags: Federation, PR, Education, Advocacy

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Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) News Bureau.

Rev. Robert Reidy and Mimi Colon of La Sagrada Familia Church distributed uniforms to newly enrolled CMSD students from Puerto Rico.

Families from Puerto Rico are continuing to arrive in Cleveland, and the local faith community is stepping up to help children get a successful start in CMSD schools.

Donations from the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and La Sagrada Familia Church have been pouring in to the Thomas Jefferson International Newcomers Academy in the form of school supplies and uniforms. The donations have been distributed to many of the about 300 children whose families fled the island in the wake of Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

The Rev. Robert Reidy of La Sagrada Familia said helping to make sure the children have everything they need is important to him and his congregation, many of whom are from Puerto Rico or of Puerto Rican descent.

“It was a natural connection since many in our parish have family members who are being affected by this,” Reidy said

The minister and church employee Mimi Colon visited Thomas Jefferson recently to help distribute uniforms to some of the newcomers. An anonymous donor gave the church $1,000 to help the District’s new Puerto Rican students, so Reidy worked with District staff to obtain information on clothing sizes and genders of the Puerto Rican students and Colon went shopping for the clothes.

Uniforms have been one of the biggest areas of need for the new students, said Senaida Perez, the family engagement and student support coordinator for CMSD’s Multilingual Multicultural Education Office. When the families arrive in Cleveland, most of them have few belongings, having lost much of their possessions in the storm, said Perez, who has helped enroll the displaced students. Parents are usually unable to purchase uniforms on their own since their jobs were on the island and they’re stuck looking for work in a strange new city.

That’s why the donations are so crucial.

“I want these kids to go to school feeling like everybody else and to feel comfortable in school,” Perez said.

The donation through La Sagrada helped provide uniforms to more than two dozen newcomers.

“As long as the uniforms fit, I’ll be happy,” Reidy said. “I want to make sure the children can take advantage of what they receive.”

The Jewish Federation of Cleveland was also eager to help the District’s newest students. Volunteers who tutor CMSD students through the Jewish Federation’s Public Education Initiative heard about the influx of families and the extent of their needs and immediately started purchasing school supplies to send to CMSD, said Jessica Bell Semel, director of the PEI program.

“These kids are moving here with nothing from an island that’s been destroyed,” Bell Semel said. “The volunteers feel that a small burden for them will make a big difference for someone else.”

Although the Jewish Federation doesn’t have any PEI tutors in the International Newcomers Academy, Bell Semel said the connection that the volunteers feel with children at other sites was enough of a driving factor.

“Even though most of our volunteers don’t live in Cleveland, they feel like the schools are a part of them,” she said. “They feel that the kids deserve whatever they need to get them in school.”

The bookbags, notebooks, pencils and crayons are now in the hands of the Puerto Rican students, who are enrolled at sites across the District, including the International Newcomers Academy, Marion C. Seltzer School and Buhrer Dual Language Academy.

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