RHS services offer aid to students in need
By SAMANTHA PAK
Redmond Reporter Reporter
February 15, 2013 · 9:54 AM
Just as there is no such thing as a free lunch, there is no such thing as a free education — even in public schools.
From fees for Advanced Placement, SAT and ACT testing, athletics and specialized classes, to ASB cards, field trips, formal dance tickets and even lunch, high school is filled with incidental costs. Some families have no problem covering these costs, but for those who may find it difficult, Redmond High School (RHS) has a program that could help — it’s right there in the name.
RHS Help offers financial assistance to students to cover such incidentals through a confidential application process.
Associate principal Rebekah Westra said their philosophy is that no student should be denied participation in school activities due to their socio-economic status.
Funding for the RHS Help comes from a combination of donations and grants. RHS principal Jane Todd added that the money they receive from stores such as Target, which allow customers to select a school to donate a percentage of the proceeds from their purchases to, also goes toward RHS Help.
The program has been around for about six years and Todd said they disperse about $10,000 to students each year. RHS Help is managed by InvestEd, an organization whose mission is to provide immediate help for students in need. According to its website, InvestEd “provides funding that supports the efforts of secondary schools throughout Washington state.”
Todd said InvestEd only manages RHS Help. The organization doesn’t take a percentage of any of the funds.
Before the program started, Todd said the demographics at RHS were shifting and they believed there were more students who qualified and could benefit from the free and reduced lunch program. Students wouldn’t sign up because of the stigma attached to the idea of needing financial help, she said.
In addition to providing financial assistance to students, RHS Help was also started as a way to bring awareness to the fact that there are struggling families in the community.
“That’s not shameful,” Todd said.
After RHS Help was established, she said the number of students on free or reduced lunch began to go up as more students became comfortable with asking for help.
Athena Anderle agreed that there is a stigma of being poor attached to needing help. The RHS senior is a student member of Nourishing Networks, a coalition that began as an initiative of Redmond-based Hopelink and brings together people within the community to help fill the gaps that the current network of social services is unable to meet.
As a member of the network, Anderle has seen that there are a lot of struggling families in Redmond, despite the assumption that the area sits toward the top of the socio-economic ladder. One of the projects she has participated in is Pantry Packs, a rolling backpack program that provides kids with food for the weekend as there is no free or reduced meal program to help them on their days off from school.
The first time Anderle helped put together the Pantry Packs was an eye opener for the 17-year-old. She said they were making more than 200 packs for kids to take home.
“It’s crazy because living in this community, you aren’t aware of the amount of need that is really there,” she said.
In addition to helping with Pantry Packs, Anderle said the Nourishing Networks contingent at RHS is working to turn an on-campus garden — currently used by the food-sciences classes — into a community garden. When this happens, she said they hope to donate the produce grown in the garden to Pantry Packs so kids will also have fresh fruits and vegetables during the weekend.
Like RHS Help, Anderle said having students volunteer for Nourishing Networks is important to increase awareness of the need in the community.
“The reason it’s so important is because a lot of kids are hesitant in accepting help,” she said.Contact Redmond Reporter Reporter Samantha Pak at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-867-0353, ext. 5052.