Administration considers additional funding for underprivileged students

Katie Cavender, co-news editor

South’s administrators are in the early stages of discussing how to improve and expand the services provided to students who qualify for free and reduced lunch.

The free and reduced lunch program provides students who come from lower income homes with the opportunity to be given full or partial funding towards lunch and school necessities. According to Dr. Jim Shellard, student activities director, he and Dr. Lara Cummings, head of student services, are working to find ways to provide funds that will allow these students to participate in activities that require a fee. These activities could include athletic summer camps, school dances and extracurricular activities.

“There’s a fund called “Mickey’s Closet”, [which] basically raises funds that can then be applied for [by students] and [used] to pay for those [events] for those students,” Shellard said. “So we’re trying to raise some funds for that.”

According to Shellard, many students over the years have inquired about needing financial help in order to participate in a particular activity or attend an event. One of these such events is the Variety Show. Shellard says that he is trying to find a solution for students who are unable to afford tickets.

“We’re looking at what particular nights of V-Show don’t necessarily sell out, with the idea that maybe we could offer tickets [to students unable to afford it],” Shellard said.

While Shellard had many visits from students asking about the affordability of activities, Cummings believes that there is a barrier for some students in asking for help. According to Cummings, these students can be helped if they feel comfortable asking for it.

“We want to figure out a way that we can have students come and inquire about these things, and then have students be able to participate in things like that,” Cummings said.

Cummings sees that students who qualify for free and reduced lunch need anonymity. Despite that, they also deserve to receive the aid they need in different areas, and should be able to get it without feeling embarrassed.

“For a student to have to walk into the bookstore, with all these other students and parents standing around, and say, ‘I need this, but I’m free and reduced and I can’t pay for it,’ that really puts them in a bad spot,” Cummings said. “So [we’re trying to figure out how] we can make the process the same whether you’re free, reduced, [or anything else].”

According to Cummings, another important piece of improving aid for students who need it is increasing understanding of the program.

“I think a lot of it is an education piece of it, in educating not only staff here but students and families in terms of what they’re entitled to,” Cummings said. “If need be, we can look at making suggestions to the policy if we think that’s part of it, but if not, just having a mechanism in place and a procedure for students to feel comfortable asking for the help when they need it.”

Improvement and increased coverage of aid for students on free and reduced lunch is a priority for both Shellard and Cummings because both have personally spoken with many students that they want to help, and have not yet been able to. According to Cummings, getting to know these students on a more personal level has driven her desire to help them.

“Down here [in the guidance office], I get to know the story behind the story of a lot of our students,” Cummings said. “I think when [I] hear that, and [I] individualize every single case on what would be best for that student or that family, I want to help. I want to support them.”