Poverty Program Focuses on Bare Essentials to Help Children Learn, Gain Dignity

Apr 1, 2019

Rise Above Poverty members collected clothing donations for Delaware Elementary School students, where more than 9 in 10 are in poverty.
Credit Brad Klein/WAER News

Poverty affects much of the city of Syracuse, but one area it strikes hardest is Delaware Academy Elementary School.  A reported 98% of the student body sits below the poverty line.  One organization tackled the problem one undergarment at a time this past weekend. 

Food, water, and shelter. Those are “the essentials” that people think of when they donate to the poor.

But they might not think of dignity.  And for the children at Delaware Academy Elementary School, that might be what they need the most. Rise Above Poverty board member Julie Tantalo says something as simple as new underwear can give them the confidence they need.

“If we can just help in that small way.  For them to just not feel different, not be picked-on, not having to focus on the parts of their lives that they can’t control” 

Rev. Ray King and members of Bellegrove Missionary Baptist Church took part in donation drive.
Credit Brad Klein/WAER News

The school’s social workers called Rise Above Poverty and told them about the undergarment deficiency that many of the students suffer from. So they organized the Slam Dunk Poverty Underwear Drive. The goal was to collect 500 pairs of new underwear, but the community rallied together to donate nearly 1700 pairs. Board member TaShika Lewis says she can sympathize with the students because of her daughter.

“It kind of hits home knowing that someone of her age doesn’t have the necessities they need to even to attend school or they’re going and feeling ashamed of not having everything that they need.”

According to the New York State Education Department, 7/8ths of the economically disadvantaged students in the Syracuse City School District from grades 3 through 8 are not proficient in English Language Arts and Math, as per state testing results. Rise Above Poverty founder Reggie Kelley says the donations will also help the students academically.

Rise Above Poverty's Reggie Kelly accepts donation from International Free and Accepted Modern Masons
Credit Brad Klein/WAER News

“They’re going to be able to focus on what they’re going to school for, to learn, instead of saying, ‘I don’t have underwear today or I don’t have socks.’  Dignity goes into all those roles, as far as self-confidence and being prepared to learn.”

Rise Above Poverty has more drives coming up. For more information, visit their website at riseabovepovertysyr.org.