Internal—first steps
1. Begin by querying your congregation’s members if they are aware of a nearby school with at-risk students. Needs may include: 1) food insecurity, 2) academic support, 3) health challenges 4) ESOL/language support, or 5) clothing and school supplies. Housing and transportation can also be issues impacting students.
2. An excellent resource to use to gather information on schools and students at-risk is the Montgomery County website https://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/departments/sharedaccountability/gl…
This website gives you the following information about each elementary, middle and high school in Montgomery County: 1) enrollment numbers broken down into percentage of students in ESOL, FARMS (Free and Reduced Meal program/this is a critical indicator of need), and ESOL and within these categories by gender and ethnicity; 2) FARMS percentage in the past, 3) mobility rate (when this rate is high it means students move from school to school usually because of housing insecurity and the economy, 4) attendance rate (a high rate of attendance is a good sign families even those in need want their children to learn), 5) programs, 6) staffing broken down by race and position, 7) teacher student ratio by grades, 7) teacher professional experience (highly important), and basic building facts.
3. Survey all membership groups within your congregation to determine: 1) what another group might be doing in terms of supporting schools and students, 2) interest in such a program, 3) willingness to commit time and additional resources (budgetary), and 4) other information which might be helpful in getting program started. The latter may include contacts with outside organizations or with a specific school or parent/teacher/administrator at a school.
4. Apprise the clergy, congregation’s board of officers and administrative staff of your initial query.
Internal—next steps
1. Publicize a meeting for members interested in developing a volunteer program to support at-risk students. The meeting should be a time to present any information already gathered on neighborhood schools with a high percentage of students at-risk. It is also a time to gather more information, including the names of schools with an at-risk population, and to get a sense of how many people are interested in pursuing this project. Numbers are important to the degree that while two or three members may carry a large part of the responsibility for the program (if one is pursued) at least 8-10 persons should be available to complete the initial outreach tasks you might decide to do.
2. Choose a school to support based upon MCPS website information, recommendations from congregant members and community input from outside the congregation.
3. Before going further, make every effort to find a contact within the school. It could be a congregant, a friend of a congregant, or a teacher at the school who is willing to make introductions to the school’s principal.