News

Halstead Academy Joins the Student Support Network, November 2019

The Student Support Network is delighted to welcome the Halstead Academy Network to the Student Support Network!

The lead volunteers of the Halstead Academy Network are Ashlee Alem and Mary James, who will work with school staff to fulfill student needs and stock and organize the room for students, now known as the Care Closet.

Important Grant Received From Divinity Lutheran Church, November 2019

The Student Support Network has received a grant of $12,000 from Divinity Lutheran Church in Towson to support food programs at Parkville High School for two years. We are deeply grateful to the Endowment Committee and members of Divinity Lutheran for this extremely generous support, which will help hundreds of students at risk of hunger and food insecurity at the high school. The funds will be used to purchase food for the offices of the three Student Resource Officers at Parkville, who all distribute food to hungry students. The Officers have reported improvements in discipline, attendance, and trust in school staff after the Network began purchasing food for their offices. Through this grant, the Network will be able to increase funding for their efforts in 2020 and 2021. Thank you, Divinity Lutheran Church!

Student Resource Officer at Parkville High School

The Network Announces A New Partnership With Pressley Ridge, October 2019

The Student Support Network has begun a partnership with New Pathways Pressley Ridge, a non-profit assisting disconnected youth trying to stay in school and successfully move into the workforce. Pressley Ridge received a grant for housing and support from a case manager for unaccompanied homeless students attending local Baltimore County schools, including Parkville High School. The Network will provide food for the first few weeks before food assistance becomes available, and then as needed from the Pantry for these homeless students.

Kyle Beliczky, Youth Housing and Community Services Coordinator, New Pathways Pressley Ridge

Laurie Speaks At Pine Grove Elementary School’s 50th Reunion, October 2019

Laurie was invited to speak at the celebration of Pine Grove Elementary School’s 50th Reunion on October 4, a celebration of the continuous engagement of current and former students, parents, and educators with this school.  Christina Pumphrey, our Network Lead Volunteer for Pine Grove Middle School, was also there – her daughters attended Pine Grove Elementary.

Left to right: Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, Michele Guyton, State Delegate District 42B, Chris West, State Senator District 42, County Executive John Olszewski, and Kathleen Causey, President, Board of Education of BCPS.

Christina Pumphrey with her daughters and Laurie at the event.

Photos courtesy of Brian Glock

Laurie Presents Information On Poverty in BCPS To The Lilacs Group, September 2019

Many thanks to Terri Seitz Parrish and other members of the Lilacs (Ladies in Life & Christian Service) Group for the opportunity to present information on poverty and hunger in BCPS at their September meeting, and for all of the donations to the Network (photo only shows a few) – a wonderful group of compassionate and energetic women devoted to helping others! The Lilacs are longstanding supporters of the Network.

The Network Receives A Grant From The Matthews Children’s Foundation, September 2019

The Student Support Network has just received a grant of $1,000 from the Matthews Children’s Foundation, administered through Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens. This grant will be used to purchase school supplies for our Network schools; several programs at our schools request many school supply kits every year. We are grateful to Amy Shimp and Cheryl Percy for their assistance in applying for this grant.

Photo, left to right: Amy Shimp, General Manager of Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens, Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, President, SSN, Jess Wodarczyk, Executive Director, SSN, and Al Fritz, Matthews Cemetery Products, representing the Matthews Children’s Foundation

Another Local Business Commits Its Support To the Network, Fall 2019

Many thanks to Dennis Klein and Donna Myers  of Consolidated Insurance and Risk Management for including requests for supplies in their Fall Fest food drive, and two other drives, to benefit the Kindness Closet at Owings Mills Elementary in October!  These donations will be a huge help in keeping the Kindness Closet stocked for the students in great need at the school.
Contact: Donna Myers

Owings Mills Elementary School Joins the Student Support Network, August 6, 2019

We are delighted to announce that Owings Mills Elementary School has joined the Network – our first elementary school, and our first school in the Northwest area of the County.  We met again  with the wonderful staff and lead volunteers to sign the paperwork and see the new “Kindness Closet” in the school. 

Front, left to right: Susan Katz, Nora Linstrom, lead volunteers, and Jenny Conrad, Assistant Principal. Back: Vicki Almond, lead volunteer and Network Board member, Laurie, and Scott Conway, Principal. Photos taken by Jessica Duvall Wodarczyk our new Executive Director.  

Why The Work Of The Student Support Network Is So Vital, August 2019

We have recently updated the statistics on our Network schools with the new addition of Dumbarton Middle School, and with Owings Mills Elementary School, which will join the Network in August.

*SNAP is the acronym for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; these students live in families at or below 130% of the federal poverty level, which in 2019 is an annual income of no more than $33,475 for a family of four people.

Loch Raven High School

Enrollment: 870 students

268 students qualify for Free Meals, 31.3% of all students

111 students depend on SNAP benefits*

18 students currently identified as homeless

 

Parkville High School

Enrollment: 1937 students

870  students qualify for Free Meals, 47.9% of all students

301  students depend on SNAP benefits

200 currently identified as homeless (up from 143 since 1/31/2019)

 

 Pine Grove Middle School

Enrollment: 921 students

361  students qualify for Free Meals, 38.6% of all students

180 students depend on SNAP benefits

15 students currently identified as homeless

Loch Raven Technical Academy

Enrollment: 769 students

413 students qualify for Free Meals, 54.9% of all students

195 students depend on SNAP benefits

20 students currently identified as homeless

 

Dumbarton Middle School (July 2019)

Enrollment: 1,188 students

223 students qualify for Free Meals, 18.7% of all students

79 students depend on SNAP benefits

26 students currently identified as homeless

 

Owings Mills Elementary School (joining August 6, 2019)

Enrollment: 784 students

505 students qualify for Free Meals, 64.5% of all students

244 students depend on SNAP benefits

18    students currently identified as homeless

Total numbers for Network Schools

 

 2,640 students live in severe poverty (qualify for Free Meals in school)

1106 students depend on SNAP benefits (extreme poverty)

297 students currently identified as homeless

 

In 2018, the Network funded over 10,000 visits and requests for assistance at Network schools, with over $123,000 in monetary and in-kind donations.

Maryland Presbyterian Church Reaffirms Commitment to SSN Students, July 21, 2019

Maryland Presbyterian Church helped the Student Support Network get started in 2016 (when we were in only one school, Loch Raven High School).  Their Mission Committee there has also conducted drives for donations to the Network, and is doing one again in July and August.  Laurie spoke to Mission Committee members and also to the congregation in their “Moment for Mission” on July 21.  We are grateful to MPC for their ongoing support!

 

Photo Left to right: Dot Attwell, Rosemary Plummer, Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, Mary Jo Zimbro, and Leslie Erickson

Linden Heights United Methodist Church Continues to Support Network Schools, July 2019

The Student Support Network is very grateful to the Mission Committee and congregation of Linden Heights United Methodist Church in Parkville for their continuing support of Pine Grove Middle and Parkville High Schools.  The church will have donation drives in August and September benefiting teachers and students at these schools in their local community.  We are grateful to have them as another church partner supporting students in need!  

Dumbarton Middle School Joins the Student Support Network, July 2019

The Student Support Network is delighted to welcome Dumbarton Middle School!  Volunteers and staff have been developing Dumbarton Middle’s Comfort Closet throughout 2019 and officially joined the Student Support Network in July. 

The lead volunteers of the Dumbarton Middle Network are Shannon Carney and Lisa Mathias, who will work with school staff to fulfill student needs and stock and organize the room for students, now known as the Comfort Closet.

The Student Support Network Hires Its First Executive Director, June 17, 2019

The Student Support Network is very pleased to announce that Jessica Wodarczyk has joined the Network as its first Executive Director, effective June 17, 2019.  Her hiring was made possible by the April grant from the Hackerman Foundation.  Jess has an extensive background in the nonprofit sector, formerly managing a national program of the American Red Cross, where she gained experience in running day to day operations, volunteer management, community outreach, and fundraising.  For the past six years, she has been an active volunteer with Carroll Manor Elementary, through which she facilitated fundraising events to benefit those in need, served on the PTA board, as well as co-chaired her daughter’s Girl Scout troop.  Jessica holds a master’s degree in non-profit management from the College of Notre Dame and lives in Baltimore County.  

Moms Club Of Perry Hall, White Marsh, Parkville And Rosedale Raises Funds for Student Support Network, June 2019

Many members of this Moms Club have been generous supporters of the Network in the past, and this year, the Club decided to donate all of their profits from sales at the Camp Chapel Community Yard Sale in Perry Hall to the Student Support Network. They raised $500! A big thank you to Kelly Mink, the President, and the many other Moms who helped make this event a great success – some started setting up at 5 am for this community sale. The Moms Club will be a Silver Sponsor of our fundraiser on October 22. Many Club members also donate directly to our schools and to our Annual Drives. We are very grateful for their partnership with the Network!

Photo L-R are: Melissa Karlik, Kelly Mink, Jessica Neil, Kelly Benny

Members of the Moms Club of Perry Hall, White Marsh, Parkville and Rosedale stopped by with their children to present the Network with a check for $500, their profits from the Camp Chapel Community Yard Sale

Towson Times Article on Dumbarton Middle School Joining the Network, June 12, 2019

Many thanks to Libby Solomon of the Towson Times for her article on Dumbarton Middle School joining the Network this fall.  This article ran in the digital edition and the printed paper the week of June 17-21.  To read her article, click here.

Dumbarton Middle School is the fifth school to join the Network.

The Baltimore Sun Profiles the Student Support Network, June 11, 2019

Liz Bowie, a reporter with The Baltimore Sun, wrote an article on the important work the Network is doing to help Baltimore County students and their families who are living in poverty.  We are so grateful to Ms. Bowie for helping us to get the word out on our organization and its growing impact in the community.  To read the article, titled “How a nonprofit turned Baltimore County school storage rooms into a free general store for students in need”, click here.

Vicki Almond Joins The Student Support Network Board of Directors, May 2019

The Student Support Network is delighted to announce that Vicki Almond, former County Councilwoman representing the Second District of Baltimore County, has joined our Board of Directors. Vicki’s decades of public service and her expertise in County government and the school system will be great assets to the Network!

Baltimore County Council Budget Meeting April 30, 2019

On Tuesday, April 30, the Baltimore County Council held a hearing on the proposed County budget for 2019-2020. Hundreds of people attended and over 80 people spoke. Below is the statement made by Laurie on behalf of the Student Support Network. She also provided information for the County Council members, which is posted on this website under Resources/Poverty in Baltimore County.

Statement April 30, 2019, Budget Hearing Baltimore County Council

Good evening, members of the County Council , I’m Dr. Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, President of the Student Support Network, a non-profit assisting students living in poverty in Baltimore County public schools.  We wish to express our great appreciation for the proposed funding  for additional school counselors, social workers and school psychologists, although it will take many years to reach adequate numbers of support staff in schools.   The absence of funding for additional Pupil Personnel Workers, specifically requested by Board of Education member Lisa Mack representing the first District, and approved by the Board of Education, is a major disappointment.  But at least the increases are going in the right direction. 

We are also grateful for the $1 million dollars in funding for additional breakfast programs in high-poverty schools within BCPS, as hungry children can’t learn.

Even with these increases, it must be understood by all here that dreadful inequities and problems remain in the school system, including the absence of funding for Towson and Dulaney High Schools, overcrowding, and the continuing lack of funding for food programs in schools needed by students in poverty.  Make no mistake, this budget is only a small step on the long climb to address  our now systemically entrenched poverty among students and their families – we have gone back over 50,000 students County-wide this year living in severe poverty, 43% of all students, and as of January of this year over 2,000 were identified as homeless.  Thousands more live in families where incomes are too high to qualify for meal assistance but not enough to be self-sufficient economically. 

These problems will continue and get worse until the County comes up with a long-term systemic approach to addressing poverty.  Poverty and food insecurity are present County-wide.  According to the United Way of Maryland, in Baltimore County, over 124,000 households have incomes below the threshold needed to be self-sufficient, or 38% of all households in the County.  

Over 91,000 residents of our County suffer from food insecurity (11%) – of those, over 26,000 are children, nearly 15% of all children in the County.

These are the thousands of our children who often don’t know where their next meal is coming from.  And summer is approaching – when hunger and food insecurity are much worse because impoverished children are not getting meals in schools.  According to the Overview of Local Maryland Governments, Baltimore County spends less per capita on health and social services than any other jurisdiction in the state, including Baltimore City.   So I ask you all, how will you in your capacities as elected officials work with the County Executive to address these problems this year, next year, and the year after that, and the year after that?  What legacy will you pass on to those who come after you?   You are the ones who can begin to change these awful statistics, and we ask you all to work on them with the County Executive and County staff. 

Thank you very much.

Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, Ph.D.

President, Student Support Network

e-mail: ltaylormitchell.ssn@gmail.com

Goucher College Students Presented Their Research on Access to Healthy Food, Spring 2019

Goucher College Students presented their research on access to healthy food as part of Professor Phong Le’s ongoing study of food availability in the Loch Raven, Parkville, and Towson High School catchment areas. This statistic class went out and surveyed dozens of stores in these areas to measure food availability according to the Health Food Availability Index (HFAI) developed by Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. Two faculty members at Goucher College and one at Towson University were engaged with the Network this semester, visiting the “Loch Raven Haven” at Loch Raven High School and interviewing volunteers about their experiences helping the Network. We hope to continue these partnerships in the future!

The Hackerman Foundation Awards Important Grant to the Student Support Network, April 2019

The Student Support Network has been awarded a grant of $35,000 from the Hackerman Foundation, which represents initial funding in the hiring of an Executive Director this year. “We are extremely grateful to the Hackerman Foundation for providing this opportunity to help us grow,” said Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, President of the Network. “This funding comes at a time when our organization is growing rapidly and the work involved has begun to outpace the volunteer efforts that began the Network in 2015.” Currently the Network has programs in four schools and runs two annual drives to assist students in twenty-two schools with food, school supplies, and personal care items. Over 10,000 visits and requests for food and other assistance were met last year through Network programs in schools.

SSN Celebrates Parkville High AVID Program Students, Spring 2019

This spring we are celebrating the wonderful accomplishments of the students in the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program at Parkville High School, freshmen through seniors. A total of 61 students made the Honor Roll and the Program GPA for the quarter was 2.84, which is again well above the school and county average. Two students had 4.0 averages. We celebrated with popsicles and certificates. The Network is a proud supporter of these students and their hard work in the AVID program!

Summer Internship for Student from Goucher College Funded by SSN, April 2019

The Student Support Network has funded a $1,000 internship through a donation to Baltimore County government to update the Baltimore County Emergency Resource Guide, a comprehensive guide to social services, food banks, and dozens of other resources available in Baltimore County. Last updated in 2013, this Guide has been so important for service providers that older copies are still used. Updating this Guide has been a goal of the Network for the past three years. Caroline Patterson, a student from Goucher College, will be working with Malina Colón, Executive Assistant of the Baltimore County Office of Communications and other staff to update this guide, which will help service providers including school support staff throughout the County. We are grateful to the Office of Community Based Learning at Goucher College and to Ms. Colón for making this project possible.

Caroline Patterson, a student from Goucher College, who will be interning with the Baltimore County government

Loch Raven Technical Academy Joins the Student Support Network, March 2019

We are delighted to welcome the Loch Raven Academy Network to the Student Support Network!

The lead volunteers of the Loch Raven Academy Network are Stephanie Goldstein and Barbara Leeper, who will work with school staff to fulfill student needs and stock and organize the room for students, now known as the Raven Center.

For more information about the Loch Raven Academy Network, please visit its SSN home page.

Baltimore County’s Transition Report Includes Important Education Focus, February 2019

The Student Support Network and other education advocacy groups are extremely pleased that in the Transition Report issued by Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski’ s Office last week, the Education Team made recommendations that included full implementation of the Community Eligibility Provision (breakfast and lunch at no charge in 51 high poverty schools), “Breakfast After the Bell” in eligible schools, and increases in support staff (pages 8, 14 and 15). 

Please read the full report.

Left to right: Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, Tam Lynne Kelley of No Kid Hungry and Yara Cheikh, education activist, at the meeting on the release of the Transition Report at CCBC Essex on Feb. 19

Our partnership with Goucher College faculty and students continues, February 2019

On Feb. 6, Laurie spoke in another statistics class, where students will do more research on food access in the catchment areas of our Network high schools: Parkville High School and Loch Raven High School, comparing these with food access in the Towson High School area. Last semester students surveyed about 25% of all stores in these areas selling food, and they evaluated the quality of the food according to the Health Food Availability Index developed by Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. This research has not been done in Baltimore County!

We discussed the prevalence of poverty in the County, numbers of students qualifying for Free meals in school (nearly 50,000) and the proposed Summer SNAP for children legislation recently introduced in Annapolis to help children at risk of hunger during the summer months and winter break. Many thanks to Professor Phong and the Office of Community Based Learning at Goucher!

Partnership with Goucher College Community: Getting the Word Out on Hunger and Food Insecurity in Baltimore County, January 2019

Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, President of the Network, was invited to speak to the staff at Goucher College on Jan. 24 about hunger and food insecurity in our area, including Baltimore County Public Schools, and programs such as the Network which are trying to address it.  Goucher College, Towson University, the University of Maryland and the Community College of Baltimore County now all have food pantries for students in need of food.

On Wednesday January 30, the topic of the “Community Bowl” common hour at Goucher College was food insecurity. Our panel, organized by Rob Ferrell of Goucher, talked with students, faculty and staff there about food insecurity in K-12 and local colleges and universities, systemic problems related to poverty and food insecurity, and what to do about them – it was a great event!

Left to right, Rob Ferrell, Prof. Carolyn Schwartz, Dr. Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, Prof. Le Phong, and James Williams, a student at the college.

Carroll Manor Elementary School PTA hosts a Family Pasta Night Fundraiser for the Student Support Network, January 11, 2019

A huge thank you to Mary Seiler, PTA President of Carroll Manor Elementary, and PTA members for choosing the Student Support Network to benefit from their Family Pasta Night fundraiser.  This event raised $1,000 for the Network, and we are very grateful for all of their work to put this great evening together.

Jess Wodarczyk and Girl Scout Troop #1412 of Carroll Manor Elementary School had previously visited the Loch Raven Haven and talked to Chris Diehl there about items for students in need, and the Troop also brought donations for the Network to the event.  Laurie Taylor-Mitchell and Chris Diehl set up a table with information about the Network and examples of items provided to students.  Delicious food, too, was provided by Brookside Market – a new place to check out.”