Social Workers Help Monroe Elementary Students Address Needs Beyond School
It’s called GEARS–Giving Everyone A Reason to Smile–more than just a food shelf inside Monroe Elementary for Mathematics, Science, and Children’s Engineering in Brooklyn Park.
“We offer a lot of things folks might not know we have,” said Amy Elder, one of three social workers assigned to the school.
The social workers’ office, right across the hall from the main office, houses the food shelf, a clothing closet with new and gently-used winter clothes for kids, school supplies, personal hygiene items and a pair of laundry machines.
“(We) have them feel good about what they’re wearing at school and know that it’s clean and they’re ready for a full day of learning in the classroom,” said Elder.
The program began out of a need some families identified during the pandemic and civil unrest of a few years ago, said administrators.
“We were getting calls from families saying we need these things. Can you help us?” said Assistant Principal Scott Lattis. “Myself and the principal started talking: ‘Can we do this?’ Very quickly we found out we could. We leaned into the community here, and the families very quickly donated.”
Each fall, the school holds a food donation drive.
“It’s really fun. We have the church come in and kind of go through the expiration dates and get things organized, so we have a lot of help,” said Elder. “We typically have the whole counter full of items as well as lots of tables set up in the room.”
That organization helps get the year off to a start that allows the social workers to help as many students as possible with as many needs as possible.
“To come full circle is supporting the individual and the family but also within the school to hopefully better their focus and attention in the classroom and also just relationship with their teacher, too, to fulfill that need,” said Elder.
Lattis, the long-time administrator, sees a larger impact beyond just the school-aged years for some students.
“We are impacting a student, but they’re going to have a legacy and they’re going to impact people as they go through life,” he said. “So that one small ripple has a chain reaction.”