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Hello, my name is Russell. I am a student at Inez Elementary Community School, and I’m in 5th Grade. I really want to help unhoused and people who are going through hard things. I got “woke” when I found out that my friend is unhoused. When I found out about this, I knew I needed to help. Not just this friend, but also other people who are hurting too.
Our school has ways that we help. We have Rocketfuel Weekend Backpack Program, which is a bag of food to help families over the weekend or long breaks. I have helped pack these bags a few times and I like helping my school community. We also have the Rocketwear Closet, which helps kids who need clothes, shoes, coats, underwear, and socks. Our school mascot is the ROCKETS so that is what those names mean. Sometimes we have fundraisers that help raise money for the things we give away. There are also lots of friends from the neighborhood who help the school too.
I look for ways to keep encouraging my friend. I tell her I like her for who she is, not for what she has or doesn’t have. If kids are being nosey or talking about her, I try to tell them that’s not ok. There are days when I can tell that she feels a little “off,” so I tell her there are friends like me that she can talk to and there are teachers at school she can talk to. I just try to be there for her, and I make sure her brother is ok too.
I interviewed three people to help me learn more about ways I can help my unhoused friends.
I talked to Mr. Jeff and he works with the Renters Coalition of Albuquerque. He said something I found interesting. “Being unhoused costs more than being housed.” Why that was interesting is because I figured that if you were unhoused it would cost less, because it felt like there would be no bills to pay, like electricity or rent. Jeff explained that people who have jobs and bills to pay are able to pay the bills they have. People who are unhoused have to pay more for food because it is harder to find. Also, being unhoused causes stress and mental anguish that makes people feel terrible. This sometimes can lead to unhealthy behaviors or addictions. This type of care for people is very expensive. Unhoused people also can get very sick because they can’t go to the doctors and don’t have a place where they can rest and recover.
Ms. Casey is my school principal. Something I learned from her that I didn’t know before is that unhoused families can come into our school building early, as early as 6am, on school days. This helps them stay warm in the winter and everyone in the family can come in, use the restrooms, wash up, and have some breakfast before everyone else gets to school. This also helps the families know that we care about them and that we want the kids to be at school to learn and get the things they need.
Ms. Ashely is our Intern School Counsellor and is a UNM Student. One thing she said that I really liked hearing is that she spends her personal free time volunteering at food banks. She got started doing this because her friends were volunteering too, and even when her friends couldn’t volunteer anymore, she kept with it. I liked hearing this because I volunteer at a food bank also.
Ms. Rachelle is the Community School Coordinator at my school. She helped me think of ways I can get involved in our community and introduced me to Deanna, and this organization Amparo. I got to go to a virtual Amparo Board meeting with Ms. Rachelle and my mom. I learned more about helping the unhoused by meeting with the Amparo board members. I thought it was great that they spent time with me and listened to my story. They were very nice to me and I had a lot to think about.
I may be just a kid, but I have big dreams. I want to change the world by helping people in need, and finding exactly where my skills and talents can be used. I encourage you to help how and where you can, spreading positivity in this world and leave things better than you found them. Thank you for reading my story.