FAU Students Learn about Citrus Blessings

FAU Students Learn about Citrus Blessings

Photo Mar 04, 11 04 50 AM (1)Wednesday morning I had the great pleasure of participating in a round table discussion at Citrus County Blessings with Coordinator Debbie Lattin and several Florida Atlantic University students on their “Alternative Spring Break”. ASB is a program where FAU students spend their spring break week serving and learning in a community. This group’s focus is on childhood hunger in rural communities, its effects on children, including physically, emotionally, and perhaps most importantly, academically.

Photo Mar 04, 11 05 52 AMThe FAU students chose to spend time in Citrus County because of our high percentage of students coming from economically disadvantaged households. Currently Citrus has approximately 69% of our students on the USDA Food and Nutrition Services free and reduced meal program. Because of the high percentage of free and reduced students all of our elementary and middle schools are Title 1 schools. In order to be a Title 1 school, at least 40% of a school’s students must be from low-income families who qualify under the United States Census’s definition of low-income, according to the U.S. Department of Education. In Citrus our lowest percentage of Title 1 students at an elementary school is 66% at Central Ridge Elementary and our highest is at Homosassa Elementary with 82% of the students being on the free and reduced meal program.

Blessings is a not-for-profit program that provides easy to prepare meals for these students (and all the school aged children in the home) from economically disadvantaged household to have on the weekends.

This day the FAU students have come to learn more about the success of the Blessings program begun by Mrs. Lattin and how it has been positively affecting our students’ lives. The students asked to meet with educational leaders in Citrus County to better understand the effects hunger can have on a student’s life and how Citrus is addressing this challenge. The students spent the afternoon assisting Mrs. Lattin and the Inverness United Methodist church assembling packs for some of this week’s students.

In addition to spending time at Blessings the students spent time visiting some of our schools. One of them was Forest Ridge Elementary who has 79% of its students on free and reduced lunch. In addition to learning about the Title 1 services FRE offers, the students spent time visiting the classrooms and even participated reading in the Dr. Seuss day at FRE.

These student’s interest are lying beyond this week’s work, the students expressed how they planned to take what they learned this week and bring it back to their communities to start or expand on programs like Blessings.

I want to thank the FAU students for giving up their vacation to make a difference in students’ lives in Citrus County. I further want to thank Debbie Lattin for helping facilitate and sponsor this group’s visit and work this week. I also want to thank Mrs. Lattin for the direct impact her Blessings program is in having on our schools and most importantly our students.

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