Senior Deviney Benson plans to prove that a little determination can go a long way.
Benson, of Indianola, Iowa, became passionate about helping kids in poverty after working on a project during her senior year at Cardinal Ritter High School in Indianapolis, Indiana.
“I called the superintendent of Indianapolis schools and asked for their neediest school,” Benson said. “The school ended up being right down the road from my high school, so I had my high school partner with their school.”
Benson helped the students by giving them more school supplies and contacting the Indianapolis Colts to speak to the students.
“I brought truckloads of supplies to them and kind of met and talked with the kids,” Benson said. “Then I contacted the Indianapolis Colts and had them come to the school because a lot of the Colts were from that area.”
Benson moved to Indianola and wanted to do something similar for a school in the Des Moines area. After calling the superintendent of Des Moines schools and learning Edmunds Elementary School has a high number of students living in poverty, Benson took action and started Edmunds Project.
The purpose of Edmunds Project is to raise money for school supplies and basic necessities to give to the pre-K through fifth-grade students who attend Edmunds Elementary School.
“They don’t have a lot of the things that they need,” Benson said. “So, what we’re trying to do is just partner with different organizations on campus and do certain drives, like school drives or winter clothing drives.”
Benson talked to several organizations on campus to get help with Edmunds Project including the Education Department, Wesley Service Scholars, Residence Hall Association, Rotaract Club and the Education Club.
One of Benson’s goals is to get mentors from Simpson to be part of Edmunds Elementary School’s new mentoring program called TeamMates.
“I really want to just get as many mentors as I can for their new program so that every kid there who wants a mentor has a mentor,” Benson said. “Mentoring is one of the most important things you can do for kids that are in schools like this, or in circumstances like this, because it gives them the most hope and helps them strive and succeed in the future.”
Professor of sociology and criminal justice Carolyn Dallinger said she thinks that getting mentors to continue going to the school would be beneficial for the students at Edmunds Elementary.
“I think it will really benefit them if the college students have the right understanding and background,” Dallinger said. “So, in other words, it’s not just that we go in to help these disadvantaged people, but that we really understand why the system is developed the way it is.”
Dallinger taught a service-learning course at Edmunds Elementary, where each Intro to Sociology student met with a young student at the school.
“They are partnered with one young student who is under the ELL program, English Language Learner, and so they go in once a week to meet with their young partner,” she said.
According to Edmunds Elementary School’s Improvement Grant, “50 percent of Edmunds ELL students are refugees; many have spent two to three years in refugee camps without basic necessities, health care, much less education.”
Dallinger said that the service-learning course was effective for her students.
“It’s mutual benefit,” Dallinger said. “My students get the experience of working with someone from a different cultural background and really understanding maybe some of their culture and problems they have coming to the U.S. and facing discrimination.”
Dallinger believes this project will be helpful for immigrant and refugee families at the school.
“The difficulty sometimes of getting adequate resources, work, etc. is tremendous for the families so any kind of project that can help supplement their needs for school would be very beneficial to the families,” Dallinger said.
If anyone is interested in getting involved with the project, either to volunteer or mentor, contact Benson at [email protected]