On October 8, School on Wheels hosted its first ever Education Panel. This panel, Beyond the Headlines: Be the Solution to Education Barriers, was presented by SPOKES, School on Wheels’ community outreach and advocacy group, in partnership with the Butler University College of Education and Clowes Memorial Hall. Panelists from the medical, educational and social work fields joined together to discuss the hurdles our children, particularly those living in poverty, are facing while offering ways that individuals with any background or ability can help. Thanks to Kelly Coker, one of the members of SPOKES, for sharing some key points and her insights from the evening.

Beyond the Headlines Panelists

Beyond the Headlines Panelists

Sometimes the barriers to education our youth face can seem insurmountable. However, when Beyond The Headlines kicked off and the panelists began to discuss the situations our youth are facing, the conversation soon turned to empowerment and those obstacles seemed so much smaller by the end of the evening.

Dr. Wanda Legrand, Deputy Superintendent for Academics at Indianapolis Public Schools, was the first to speak and focused on how IPS is currently working to address the needs of homeless and low-income learners. “Our goal is to take down the barriers so transitions and meeting benchmarks are easier.”

Dr. Aaron Kalinowski, Chief Executive at Pedigo Health Center at Horizon House and Midtown Medical, talked about the physical challenges faced by these same students. “Chronic homelessness creates toxic stress and damages a child’s chance of learning.”

Dustin Ecker, Fourth grade teacher, explained that his homeless and low-income students often come to him so far behind.  It takes extra effort and extra measures to help close the gaps they are facing.

Crystal Haslett, McKinney-Vento Liaison in Washington Township schools, made us aware that sometimes simply identifying a homeless student is an obstacle to providing help. Students often hide the challenges their families are facing, and schools don’t offer them the very services that would benefit them.

And, Caitlin Gamble, Director of Policy and Research for Hoosiers for Quality Education and the Institute for Quality Education, accurately painted a picture of the challenges faced by state representatives as they work to provide the best policies in the education field. “They cannot be experts on every topic, or every issue within a specific topic.”

beyond the headlines

After the panelists outlined the obstacles they see in each of their professions, the panelists went on to provide insight on how to be part of the solution. They made some great suggestions that on ways that anyone can get involved, including:

  • Step up and ask, “How can I help?”
  • Help make your state representative an expert on education and barriers to low-income learners. Call. Write them.
  • Donate a school uniform, which is one of the biggest barriers for students attending school.
  • Step in to a classroom and help maintain high expectations for these students.  Tutor them, and expect them to do well.

As I walked out the door from Beyond The Headlines, I was empowered. When it comes to education, there is something I can do. There is something everyone can do. The overwhelming sense I got as the panelist spoke was…simply do something. No matter how big, or how small, anything helps. Step up and ask…what can I do? If you ask the right person, you will certainly get an answer!

Kelly Coker, SPOKES member

If you missed the panel and are curious for more highlights, visit Laura Stelsel’s blog for Kappa Delta Pi about our event or check out some of the evening’s #bethesolution conversation that took place on Twitter.