Communities in Schools: Kai's Story
The City of Richmond has one of the highest rates of childhood poverty in the US and it’s a cause very close to many of Compare.com’s employees’ hearts. In 2015, we partnered with Communities in Schools (CIS) and have been working closely with them ever since. CIS works with schools directly, helping students that need that extra bit of help to get them through the school day. Whether that’s by providing healthy food for the weekend, school supplies to help them learn, or simply providing a positive role model.
In 2015, we officially partnered with Ginter Park Elementary School so that we could direct our help to a school that really needed some assistance. Throughout the year, we organize several initiatives at Ginter Park, from reading clubs and book drives, to snack bags and painting the playground. I met up with Kai, one of our volunteer co-ordinators at Compare.com, to learn more about the work we do here.
When did you first get involved with CIS?
As soon as I joined Compare.com, I knew that I wanted to get involved in the community program. Helping the next generation to succeed is so important and where better to start than at school? Every year, Compare.com has sponsored CIS’ Moving on Scholarship breakfast. I was so moved by the children’s strength through adversity that I wanted to see how Compare.com could help. I spoke to one of the co-ordinators, Krystle, and the rest is history!
What is the reading program at Ginter Park Elementary?
In 2015, we set up a reading program with a few students in 3rd grade. We hang out with a group of kids once a month and help them to read that week’s text. It’s great to see their confidence grow and you feel like you’re making a real difference. They love seeing us and even made us a thank you poster when they broke for Summer.
Apart from the reading program, how else do you get involved at the school?
This year, we went to Ginter Park Elementary and painted some designs on the playground. Some of the paint hadn’t been re-done in a few years, so everything was really worn. So, we went to Lowe’s, picked up some paint and brushes and got ready for a day of painting.
Half the group went round the back of the building and painted foursquare, hopscotch and basketball lines. The other half stayed round the front of the school and painted Gator prints (their mascot) and a map of the US. It was tiring work, bending down in the heat, but the finished product was fantastic.
In the past, we’ve also packaged snack bags for the students during their SOL exams. The kids need to concentrate on studying and doing their best and not on how hungry they are. We bought a boatload of chips, dried fruit, cereal bars and water and more. We packaged up little bags for them to have throughout their studying. We also put little motivational notes in each bag; each person at Compare.com wrote something nice to the students to encourage them to do their best.
What’s been the highlight of your time working with CIS?
Our Christmas book drive was a real high point. We wanted to support our monthly reading program, but extend it to the entire school. We had the idea of giving each child a book to read over the Christmas holidays and, as usual, Compare.com’s generosity amazed us all. We ended up with hundreds of books and every student at Ginter Park Elementary had their own book.
What’s next for Compare.com and CIS?
This year, we had a school supply drive. Staff donated pens, pencils, notebooks, glue sticks, rulers… the list goes on! We ended up with over $1,000 worth of school supplies that we could donate to the school. The plan is to make that an annual event, so that the school can come to rely on Compare.com to donate some supplies for the next school year.
Next month, we’re helping with CIS’ KaBOOM! Project. There will be hundreds of volunteers from different companies around central Virginia, building a playground in Richmond. It will be pretty amazing to see it all come together.
Building this relationship with CIS and Ginter Park Elementary School has been both very humbling and rewarding. I’m so grateful that my job at Compare.com allows me to get involved in something that can really make a difference to so many.