Garvey Elementary Gives Back to Community through Student-Led Food Drive
SCHOOLS | February 9, 2022
Garvey Elementary Gives Back to Community through Student-Led Food Drive

Fourth-grade student Brayden says that the gymnasium is one of his favorite parts of Marcus Garvey Elementary School. He loves everything from participating in assemblies on the stage to playing soccer to using the mats for gymnastics. And, earlier this month, the gym took on a new role as the site of the school’s food drive. 

The drive was organized entirely by students who are part of the Student Activists for the Community (SAC) extracurricular program. Brayden explains that he decided to join the program both for his own personal growth and the prospect of supporting the growth of his entire community. 

“I said yes to joining because I knew I was going to learn a bit more instead of spending my time outside of school doing other things,” he said. “One of the things I’m most excited about is meeting some of the people in my community because I want to show them that we are here to help.”

The SAC program is the vision of Ms. Lori Harris, Garvey’s current Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) interventionist and a member of the district’s Transformative Teaching Cohort (TTC). As a Garvey graduate herself, she is living proof that Garvey students can go on to make a difference after they graduate—and they don’t have to go far to do so. 

“Every part of this food drive was based on student choice, from the distributors to the people we chose to support us,” she said. “I feel that when students are actively participating in improving the community, they become more invested in the outcome.” 

Previously a first-grade teacher at Garvey, Ms. Harris is continuing to build relationships with her former students through the SAC program, which targets fourth- through sixth-grade students. Brayden notes that it was easy for him to feel welcome and included because of Ms. Harris’ demeanor.

“I would describe Ms. Harris as a nice, kind person. She’s very smart, too,” he said. “She’s also extremely generous because she’s the one who helped us get here and do all of this.” 

Brayden loves learning about history in the classroom. He’s particularly fascinated by the kings and rulers of ancient times, and will never pass up an opportunity to discover more about his personal hero, Martin Luther King Jr. Black History Month is a time for him to think about the impact that Dr. King made by fighting for Black communities with, as Brayden puts it, his “big heart.”

On the day of the food drive, Garvey students worked together to fill plastic bags full of dry items and prepare boxes of fresh produce for community members to take home. They prepared so many bags that they needed extra tables for all of them. Reflecting on the success of the drive, Brayden believes that other students can learn from the SAC’s efforts.

“Even if they are unsure, other students shouldn’t shut themselves out of opportunities to make a difference,” he said. “If you really want to help, you should be prepared to try really hard and persevere.” 

Garvey has long been recognized as an exemplary school to help students build social-emotional skills. With the creation of the SAC—and the execution of its first successful event—Ms. Harris wants students to continue building upon those skills so they can develop into leaders. 

While the food drive was a team effort, Ms. Harris is quick to note that all the credit belongs to the students, and she cannot wait to see what they will accomplish next. 

“The responsibility that comes with being a part of the SAC is helping my students not only understand that they can be leaders but also lets them know that they can make decisions for themselves,” she said. “When they see that they can be a part of something greater, it can inspire them to continue wanting to improve the lives of others.”