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K-State Today

November 14, 2013

Fostering the spirit of the holidays

Submitted by Patrice Scott

Something happened in a College of Education classroom that many educators can only dream of: A class discussion turned into action, and the result is many area children will have a much brighter Christmas.

One week ago, doctoral candidate Stephanie Pearson was leading a discussion about diverse populations with 45 preservice teachers in her elementary education course, Teaching Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners. For the first time, Pearson included foster children in the course content.

Some of the college students knew foster kids. Some had family members who were in — or still are — in the system. Some even revealed they had been in foster care.

“It was amazing to have so much diversity in one classroom because we often only think of diversity as skin color,” Pearson said. “This really brought our classroom family so much closer.”

The result is all of the preservice teachers are taking part in an effort to get Christmas presents for the foster kids in the Manhattan area and, they hope, for all of the foster kids in the region. Pearson contacted the Kansas Behavioral Health System and learned hers was the first phone call inquiring about help for the holidays. The ensuing conversation stunned Pearson.

“Last year, there were 120 kids in the foster care system in our region,” Pearson said. “Today, there are 800. Statewide there are 8,500 children in foster care.”

No one can pinpoint the reason for our area’s 567 percent increase. But Pearson’s class quickly realized that increase translated into a big opportunity to make a difference.

The preservice teachers have raised hundreds of dollars, have organized a bake sale — from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today in the lobby of Bluemont Hall — and are spreading the word about the need at the K-State football game on Saturday. To date, the K-State Marching Band will sponsor 12 kids; the K-State basketball team will sponsor 12 kids; and the baseball team will sponsor eight.

Will you join them?

The foster kids have completed wish lists so there is no guesswork for shoppers. Pearson said the vast majority of items on the list are practical, like coats, coloring books and shoes. And, sponsors can choose the age and sex of the foster child. The group also needs wrapping paper, bows, ribbons and tape.

“This was not an assignment,” Pearson said. “This was 100-percent student driven. Seeing a group of students who are so committed really lifts your spirits and reminds you of why you are in the field of education.”

To support this effort, please contact Pearson at sp8367@k-state.edu for a detailed list of needs or to arrange a pick up.

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