From Chicago to Flint: A Principal’s Take on Children Helping Children
SCHOOLS | February 5, 2016
From Chicago to Flint: A Principal’s Take on Children Helping Children

I’ve been in education for a long time, but have never been as proud as I was this week, when I saw my students, their families, and school communities around the District come together to support my hometown.

I grew up in Flint, Michigan, which has been in the national spotlight recently because of its water crisis. It’s hard to imagine waking up one day and learning that the regular things you do every day – cooking, washing clothes, and even drinking water – could be hurting you and your family. That’s what my friends and family in Flint are dealing with right now, and their stress and worry is hard to see.

As soon as I heard what was happening in Flint, I decided to get my school involved. This kind of outreach is common at Lee Elementary, as we take on a community service project every month. And whether it’s juvenile diabetes, cancer, or another important cause, the sentiment is the same – we want to be a school that gives back to our community.

Through the project with Flint, our kids have learned that their community is bigger than the homes and businesses around them. They’ve learned that it’s the child living in another state – a child whose home, school and neighborhood looks a lot like theirs, but who is living in a place where it’s not safe to drink the water. Giving to that child has broadened the horizons of my students.

I’ve been amazed by the generosity of our students, our staff, and schools around the city. It’s humbling to see our families, many of whom don’t have a lot of extra for themselves, walk into school with several cases of water. And to see donations pour in from schools across the District – Ogden, Azuela, Hurley, and many more – has been truly overwhelming.

Tomorrow, with the help of Interstate Restoration Company, Lee Assistant Principal Alexandra Escobar and I will drive approximately 1,500 cases of water to the Children’s Dream Center in Flint. There, we’ll distribute that water to some of the city’s most vulnerable populations, including homeless families and inner-city youth. I only wish that everyone who donated this water – my students, my staff, and all the school communities around CPS – could be there to see what a profound impact their generosity has made.

I’m so glad that my students at Lee were an integral part of this project. It has taught them to think about what is happening beyond their doorstep and shown them how powerful it can be to help someone in need. Most importantly, it is a real-life example of what we are trying to teach them in the classroom – that kindness, generosity and compassion are at the core of who we want them to be.

Principal Lisa Epstein
Lee Elementary School

*To lend support to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, visit