Tag Archives: On the Road

A Decline in Enrollment

Emmalena Elementary School is located on State Highway 550 in the western part of Knott County, Kentucky just west of the community of Clear Creek.

“The community of Clear Creek was the site of a 1970s women’s occupation and protest against strip and surface mining, especially the practice that allowed coal operators to tear up private land to reach underground minerals,” explains Renée Kube, Children Incorporated’s Director of U.S. Programs.

Renée is pictured with one of our sponsored children at Emmalena Elementary School.

“Some small, independent operators had opened mines, made quick profits, and then left, leaving the community to cope with damaged land and polluted water.”

“Today the community feels loyalty to the operators who ran good mines but still mourns the loss of good jobs while hoping and looking ahead to the future,” said Renée.

Leaving home to find work

On a trip to Knott County to visit our affiliated project Emmalena Elementary, Renée met with our volunteer coordinator at the school, Pam.

Pam told Renée that because of the mine closures, parents were forced to leave Clear Creek to find work outside of town. As a result, the school had shown a significant decline in enrollment in recent years.

Of those parents who were able to stay in Clear Creek, some found jobs in the county seat or by commuting to Hazard for work daily. Others are self-employed at a variety of work from fixing cars to cutting wood.

Unfortunately, many of these jobs are low-paying, and the community has a high poverty rate — 89% of students receive free or reduced lunch through the National School Lunch Program.

Pam feels fortunate to have other additional resources to help her find inexpensive items for the many children at her school that are living in poverty.

Shopping for kids in need

Emmalena Elementary School educates 196 children from kindergarten to eighth grade. During their meeting, Pam told Renée that she likes to take advantage of Back-to-School sales in July at stores in nearby Hazard so that she can maximize the number of clothes, shoes, book bags and school supplies she can purchase with funds provided by our sponsors.

Pam makes another big shopping trip in December for winter clothing including warm outfits, coats and snow boots for sponsored children who would otherwise go without these important items in the cold winter months.

Pam feels fortunate to have other additional resources to help her find inexpensive items for the many children at her school that are living in poverty. One such resource is the Christian Appalachian Project, a warehouse of free overstock, discontinued or imperfect merchandise offered at a low cost. She also works collaboratively with the county extension service and health department.

Thanks to their sponsors, children receive items such as clothing, school supplies and book bags.

Gratitude for our sponsors

During her visit, Pam arranged for Renée to meet a mom of two children in our program, Lydia.*  Lydia is a teacher’s aide at Emmalena Elementary School. Her husband is disabled, and they are both hard-pressed to provide for their kids.

“Lydia expressed to me how grateful she was for the help she receives from her children’s sponsors. It makes a massive difference for the whole family,” said Renée.

Renée  also meet a special boy named Michael.* Michael was enrolled in our program last May and is still unsponsored. He is in first grade and likes science.

Michael, his sister and his brother are being raised by their grandmother, who is a homemaker. She is raising them on a limited amount of public assistance that includes kinship care, which gives aid to people who are raising related children, keeping them out of the foster care system.

“Michael’s siblings are currently sponsored through our program. Michael is hoping that he will also have the opportunity to have a sponsor soon because he realizes how much it helps his grandmother and his whole family,” said Renée.

*Names changed to protect the individuals.

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How do I sponsor a child in Kentucky?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

Pride in Her Students

For years, Catlettsburg, where are affiliated projects Catlettsburg Elementary and Ponderosa Elementary Schools are located, was known as “The Gate City” because it was here that barges were loaded with coal to be shipped down the Ohio River to other ports.

But even though the children might come from strikingly different economic backgrounds, that doesn’t change how they interact with one other.

The decline of the coal industry in Kentucky and West Virginia has severely diminished the city’s economic importance, and commerce is now minimal. Today, this area of Boyd County, Kentucky suffers from high rates of both poverty and illiteracy, since a significant number of adults have never completed high school.

These social and economic problems negatively affect even the youngest members of Catlettsburg, which is why both Ponderosa and Catlettsburg Elementary serve as  bright and welcoming places for children to learn and escape some of the harsh realities they face at home.

The Haves and Have Nots

While visiting the two schools, our Director of U.S. Programs Renée Kube, met with our volunteer coordinator Jenny. Jenny oversees the resource centers at both schools, ensuring that children — including sponsored and unsponsored children in our program — are receiving basic needs throughout the school year.

During their meeting, Jenny explained to Renée that because Boyd County is located in a very rural and beautiful part of the country, Catlettsburg has become a popular place for middle and upper-class families to build homes. Jenny feels that because of this migration, the student population is divided more conspicuously into the “haves and have nots.”

But even though the children might come from strikingly different economic backgrounds, that doesn’t change how they interact with one other.

While the administration, faculty and staff of the schools may know which families struggle and which do not, Jenny says the students are very close and treat each other with kindness and respect.

Additionally, as a tight-knit group, the children are more than willing to come together to help other students in need — even those that are far away.

Additionally, as a tight-knit group, the children are more than willing to come together to help other students in need — even those that are far away.

Rising to a challenge

Before their meeting ended, Jenny told Renée a story expressing how much pride she had in her students.

In 2018, the deadly Camp Fire burned down much of the town of Paradise, California — including a school also named Ponderosa Elementary School. Not long after the fire, the principal of Ponderosa Elementary School in Catlettsburg was informed about a nationwide fundraiser through another Ponderosa Elementary School in Oregon.

The fundraiser, deemed “Pennies for Ponderosa Initiative” requested that the eleven schools named Ponderosa Elementary School in the United States collect donations for the rebuilding of the California school.

The children at Jenny’s School stepped up to the challenge. They not only raised money to help students on the other side of the country, but also sent video messages of hope and encouragement as they and their families worked to rebuild their lives.

Whether coming from an impoverished background or not, children at Ponderosa Elementary School showed that they were willing to do anything they could to help others in need — and that is something to be proud of.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN KENTUCKY?

 You can sponsor a child in Kentucky in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

Wishing for Work

Knott County Central High School is located in the small town of Hindman, Kentucky and is the only high school in all of Knott County. Built in 1974, the high school has been well maintained over the years, serving 622 students in grades nine through twelve.

Administrators and teachers at Knott County Central High work hard to help encourage students to pursue higher education.

While students’ scores are above state standardized test averages, there is still concern among administrators when it comes to college and career readiness. Overall, the school is below the state average in some key measures such as access to advanced classes or availability of help to prepare students for college entrance tests.

Kids in need

On a visit to Knott County Central High School, Children Incorporated Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, met with our volunteer coordinator, Karen, to talk about the many issues that students at the school face — especially those living in poverty.

“Karen said her students have many needs. It is challenging enough to transition through puberty and adolescence to young adulthood, and the added burden of coming from impoverished households makes their situations even more difficult,” said Renée.

“Many of the teens would love after-school jobs to help their families, but there are few opportunities. There are more jobs in the city of Hazard, but it’s a half-hour away, and most of these teens don’t have cars of their own.”

“Many of the teens would love after-school jobs to help their families, but there are few opportunities. There are more jobs in the city of Hazard, but it’s a half hour away, and most of these teens don’t have cars of their own.”

-Renée Kube

Finding creative ways to shop

As they continued their conversation, Karen told Renée about how she manages the Children Incorporated program to ensure that sponsor funds are providing students with exactly what they need throughout the school year.

“A few years ago, Karen used to have the sponsored students and their families go to a few stores in Hazard that would allow them to shop and then hold the clothes for Karen to pick up later,” Renée explained.

“Last school year she tried that system twice, but it did not work well because a lot of parents don’t have transportation or the time to get to the store.”

“The following year, Karen was able to get the principal’s permission to take a school bus field trip to Walmart with students,” said Renée.

“The kids enjoyed it, and participation was very high. She now has gone back to meeting the parents and students at a local Walmart so the kids can continue to choose their clothes, shoes and school supplies that are just right for them.”

Getting to know Victoria

Renée with Victoria at Knott County High School

Renée also had a chance to meet with a special sponsored child at Knott County High during her visit. Victoria* has had the same sponsor since she was in the 5th grade. Her father is unemployed, and her mother is taking college classes in the hopes of improving their economic situation in the future.

Money for Victoria’s family has been — and still is — very tight. Karen shared with Renée that after Back-to-School time last year, the family experienced a fire and lost many items in their home. Thanks to her sponsor and additional donations from our Hope in Action Fund, Karen was able to make sure that Victoria had everything she needed to start the school year with everything she needed.

*Name changed to protect the child.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN KENTUCKY?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

From Higher Education Program Participant to Volunteer Coordinator

Cordia Combined School is in Knott County, in the heart of the rugged wilderness of eastern Kentucky. Despite its beauty and proud history, this region suffers economic troubles that result in widespread poverty and deprivation for many families.

Industries such as coal-mining and lumber — once mainstays for employment in Knott County — have dramatically declined, increasing unemployment.

Jadea with one of our sponsored children at Cordia Combined School

Furthermore, due to this region’s remoteness, inaccessibility and small population, new job development is rare. Within the pockets of impoverished areas scattered throughout the hollows of Knott County, many complex social barriers limit the educational opportunities for its children.

However, our affiliated project, Cordia Combined School, is one of the few places in this economically-troubled region that can offer hope to children living in poverty through a well-rounded and stimulating education.

Children are not only supported by the school’s Family Resource Center, but also receive loving care from our volunteer coordinator, Jadea — who is a former sponsored child and beneficiary of our Higher Education Program.

Jadea’s story

After graduating from Morehead State University with support from Children Incorporated, Jadea returned to Knott County and got a job as a substitute teacher and teacher’s aide. Later, she applied for the position as Family Resource Youth Services Coordinator at Cordia Combined School.

Children are not only supported by the school’s Family Resource Center, but also receive loving care from our volunteer coordinator, Jadea — who is a former sponsored child and beneficiary of our Higher Education Program.

“She has been an excellent coordinator for our program. We are so proud that she benefited from the support she received from Children Incorporated and her sponsor and is now in a position to give back to children in her community,” said Renée Kube, our Director of U.S. Programs.

Special sponsored kids

On a recent trip to meet with Jadea at Cordia, Jadea introduced Renée to two special students — Jordan*, who is currently waiting for a sponsor and Alexandra, who has had a sponsor for ten years.

Jadea explained to Renée that Jordan — who is in the first grade —  is the youngest in his family. He has two older sisters. His father works on cars, but his employment is unsteady. His mother has a part-time job as a cook in the school cafeteria. Jordan’s parents’ combined pay is meager.

While they chatted, Jadea told Jordan about what our program would mean for him, and he expressed his excitement to Renée about how he would love to have a sponsor.

Renée pictured with Alexandra

After Jordan returned to class, Renée met Alexandra. Alexandra is seventeen years old and has been in the Children Incorporated program since 2009. She told Renée that over the years, support from her sponsors has helped her family a great deal.

Alexandra is the middle child of five girls. Her mom is a homemaker, and her dad drives a truck. Her parents have had a hard time providing for their daughters. Alexandra said that it was always nice knowing that because of her sponsor she wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not she would get new clothes, shoes or the school supplies she needed throughout the year.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN KENTUCKY?

 You can sponsor a child in Kentucky in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

How Poverty Impacts Academic Achievement

In our work at Children Incorporated, we often talk about the importance of getting an education. For children in our program, we believe education is the key to finding jobs upon graduation that will enable them to work toward breaking the cycle of poverty from which they come.

Unfortunately, statistics show that children growing up in impoverished households often perform less well academically than their peers.

The challenges of living below the poverty line

Jackie is pictured here with one of our sponsored children at Beaver Creek Elementary School.

As reported by the non-profit Operation Warm’s website, “Children living above the poverty line are entering kindergarten more prepared than those below it. High-income families are able to put more money towards their children’s cognitive development than those living in poverty.”

“Parents with low incomes, on average, have less time to read to their children, no funds for pre-school and less stable home environments. The difference in preparation tends to persist through elementary and high school.”

Beavers Are Achievers

According to our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, this achievement gap is prevalent in some of our affiliated schools in Eastern Kentucky, and specifically at Beaver Creek Elementary School in Knott County. Located in the small community of Topmost, families of children enrolled at Beaver Creek Elementary face rampant poverty. They struggle to overcome the common socioeconomic problems that plague Knott County such as adult illiteracy, school absenteeism, child obesity and substance abuse.

“There is no question that poverty can impact academic achievement in ways ranging from lack of books in the home to transportation barriers that make it difficult to travel to cultural and historic sites,” stated Renée. 

While visiting Beaver Creek Elementary School, Renée met with our volunteer coordinator Jackie, who Renée describes as incredibly devoted to helping her students.

During their meeting, Jackie explained that although the school motto is “Beavers Are Achievers” the children are struggling academically as they aim to reach their goals. The school’s test scores lag behind state averages, reaching only the 51st percentile in reading and just the 38th percentile in math in state ranking.

“There is no question that poverty can impact academic achievement in ways ranging from lack of books in the home to transportation barriers that make it difficult to travel to cultural and historic sites,” stated Renée. 

Making kids feel loved

Often times while visiting our affiliated projects, Renée visits with parents of children enrolled in our program.

Jackie told Renée that one of the biggest challenges in the community — and the county as a whole — is coping with drug addiction and the lack of treatment options for it. The fallout affects many children, resulting in them being raised by grandparents or other family members. For other children who still live at home with their parents, they are often being neglected and raising themselves.

Jackie feels fortunate that a local church brings food to the school’s Resource Center for her weekend Backpack Feeding Program. She says that the Children Incorporated sponsorship program is vital in helping with clothing, shoes and school supplies throughout the year. Jackie also values how sponsors make her students feel special and let them know that someone cares for them.

Meeting two special parents

After taking a tour of the building and grounds, Jackie was happy to show Renée the Family Resource Center where she had asked two of her parents —Raven and Scottie — to thank our organization on behalf of all the parents of sponsored children.

While meeting with Raven and Scottie, Renée could tell they were both very dedicated to and concerned for their daughters.

“Raven is a homemaker. Scottie was unemployed for a long time but has recently gotten a job at a small, local non-profit community center. The pay is meager. They told me that our sponsorship program has meant so much to their little girls, and that it warms their hearts to see the excitement their sponsors bring to their children,” said Renée.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN KENTUCKY?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

Support for the Long-Term

When our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, was contacted by Deb from Carr Creek Elementary School in Knott County, Kentucky twelve years ago, Renée had no idea how much of an affect that one phone call would have on children in need.

During a recent visit to Carr Creek Elementary School, Renée got a chance to see first-hand just how proud Deb is of the partnership she has created with Children Incorporated.

Deb had heard about the Children Incorporated sponsorship program during a regional Family Resource and Youth Services Center meeting among administrators and staff. After hearing about what sponsors were doing for children living in poverty, Deb knew she needed to get in touch with Renée about the urgent needs of impoverished kids at Carr Creek.

After talking with Deb, Renée agreed to partner with her and Carr Creek Elementary School — making them our first affiliated project  in Kentucky.

More schools in need

Before Renée knew it, the word about our organization’s support at Carr Creek had reached other Resource Center coordinators in Eastern Kentucky. They each followed in Deb’s footsteps, calling to request partnering with Children Incorporated. Today, thanks to Deb’s initiative, we support thousands of children in dozens of affiliated schools in Kentucky.

Deb with one of our sponsored children

Not only was Deb the first coordinator to get in touch about our sponsorship program in Kentucky, but according to Renée, she is also the first coordinator in the county to submit a Hope in Action Fund request that was for more than just one-time aid for a particular emergency.

“Deb submitted a proposal on efforts to enrich the students’ knowledge in social studies because the results of their standardized test scores were very low,” explained Renée.

“She then designed a summer camp program with instructors that taught concepts in a fun and engaging manner. Before the program began, Deb created pre-tests for the students to take. After the program ended, the children took post-tests, and the results were good. The entire faculty of the school then built additional programs on those gains that Deb initiated.”

“Deb was very excited to present me with a quilt that sponsored students had made in her after-school program. She said it’s a small appreciation of how much our programs mean to her and the families we serve,” expressed Renée.

“We were delighted to see the success of Deb’s program. Since then we have supported many similar programs in the United States through our Hope in Action Fund. These programs are geared towards long-term projects that support children over time as opposed to just for the short-term,” said Renée.

A gift to say thank you

During a recent visit to Carr Creek Elementary School, Renée got a chance to see first-hand just how proud Deb is of the partnership she has created with Children Incorporated.

“Deb was very excited to present me with a quilt that sponsored students had made in her after-school program. She said it’s a small appreciation of how much our programs mean to her and the families we serve,” expressed Renée.

After receiving the quilt, Deb introduced Renée to a few of our sponsored kids as well as their parents.

Meeting special sponsored kids

Deb works hard to make sure sponsored and unsponsored children have school supplies all year long.

Deb invited Benjamin* to the Resource Center first. Benjamin lives with his unemployed parents and two older brothers. He loves football and roots for the local high school team. Deb told Renée that Benjamin is very appreciative of his sponsor’s help to make sure he has proper clothing and shoes.

Next, Renée met Olivia and her mother, Amanda. Olivia is a sweet little girl who lives with her mom, dad and little brother. Her father works as a heating technician, but his pay is meager. Olivia’s mom helps when she can by cleaning houses and catering for weddings. Her parents’ combined earnings are still so low that Olivia qualifies for free meals at school. Olivia told Renée that she loves writing letters to her sponsor. Amanda said that Children Incorporated is a blessing for her child, and that she’s so grateful.

After Amanda and Olivia left, Deb explained to Renée that Olivia’s parents are responsible and very loving, and that Amanda regularly volunteers at the Family Resource Center so she can give back in thanks for everything that Olivia receives from her sponsor.

Grandparents stepping up to help

Lastly, Deb introduced Renée to a family of children — Liza, Natalie, Simon and James — who are being raised by their retired grandparents. Deb explained to Renée that starting over and raising young children is not what most grandparents envisioned. Many are overwhelmed financially and emotionally.

Despite their situation, Deb is proud that these girls’ grandparents have stepped up and feels they are doing a good job. Sponsorship is really helping their family, and the girls all love having special friends that provide for them when their grandparents can’t.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN KENTUCKY?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.