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Lewis Center logoThis guide, 50 Ways to Engage Local Schools, was created by the Lewis Center for Church Leadership. It is provided in PDF format, so that it can be easily downloaded, printed, and shared.

The Lewis Center is geared toward supporting clergy and congregations, but their resources have much broader application. The "50 Ways" series of articles can offer practical pointers to ministers and lay leaders in many forms of ministry and areas of Christian life.

Twelve children, forty-two grandchildren, seventy-nine great-grandchildren, and twenty-eight great-great-grandchildren; that is what my grandmother’s obituary read when she died in 2008. Of that 161 people, I am the first male to graduate from college and attend graduate school.

My grandmother, as wise and skilled as she was, died at the age of 93, having never learned to read or write. She was a deeply religious woman who believed in hard work and “loving thy neighbor.” As the matriarch of our family, her words to us were always, “Help one another.” It was a necessary trait since my family was affected by social and familial dynamics that thrust us into poverty. I was 5 years old when my mother left my father. We moved into a tiny three-bedroom house in the country. My mom paid $60 for rent. The rooms were so small they looked more like cell blocks than bedrooms. The house was infested with roaches and rodents. We didn’t know how poor we were.

Madeline sits in her third-grade class wanting to excel in her studies. But she came to school weak from hunger, and her mind is continually distracted by thoughts of food. This is not her first day being hungry. Most of her school days are days without a breakfast that would diminish the hunger pains and provide energy for the day’s challenges. So although Madeline listens to her teacher, she cannot concentrate.

Madeline has been labeled as “not very smart”, “not paying attention”, “lazy”, and “unmotivated.” These labels fail to recognize the real problem: Madeline is hungry. Her hunger will diminish her educational achievement, and her poor academic record will limit her future job options, and her low-income job will be the major reason that Madeline’s children are likely to be hungry and in poverty.

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