Imagine going to high school and not having enough money to buy lunch… What would you do?
Sussex Technical High School teacher assistant Jacques O. Bowe Jr. is finding out that many of his students are dealing with just that issue.
“It does cost to eat food,” said Bowes. “Some of them do not qualify for free or reduced lunch. The school doesn’t deny students meals, but because they lack the finances to pay for the lunches, they’ve been charging. I have students who have over $130, $140 when it comes to cafeteria bills.
“I was shocked to see how much they owed. For most of them, they’re not going to pay until they’re seniors, because they don’t have the money to do it. Most seniors have to pay their cafeteria bills before they can graduate.”
Bowes, who also works as a program coordinator and facilitator with Pathways to Success, started using funding from that program to purchase non-perishable snacks he could hand out to students in need.
“We have students who come in here like clockwork, ‘Hey, Mr. Bowe we’re hungry.’ And you can imagine, kids in high school — they can eat anything.”
Currently, Pathways to Success has around 120 students enrolled in their programs at Sussex Tech. Bowes said that due to the increase of participating students, their budget (and his own) cannot cover the cost of paying for the students’ cafeteria bills and snacks.
To that end, Bowes is asking the community to help keep the students in stock with foods such as PopTarts, oatmeal, crackers, granola bars, ramen noodles,and breakfast cereal bars.
“The immediate need is for snacks, but financial donations would help to pay off” their cafeteria bills, he said. “Thank you to those who have already been our sponsors, who have supported us. There are those who are very, very kind and generous, and believe in the cause.
“I just really, really beg those and ask those with my whole heart — anything would help. Even if it’s water, anything would help. They would be a blessing.”
He noted that for Pathways’ afterschool program, they do try to offer nutritious options, but with 85 students participating, there are budgetary limitations.
“Pizza can be the most economical choice,” he said. “Little Caesars in Georgetown has been a blessing to us. We order about 14 boxes of pizza, and they give us a discount, every Thursday.”
To help raise money, a fundraiser dinner will be held on Tuesday, March 5, from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Counting House (formerly The Brick) in Georgetown.
Volunteers for the organization, and guests including Georgetown Mayor Bill West, will serve tables. Of the evening’s sales, 10 percent will be donated to Pathways to help pay for the snacks and cafeteria bills for the Tech students.
According to its website, the mission of Pathways to Success is to “prepare youth, adults, and their families for successful lives. We utilize innovative and creative approaches in mentoring and education to help individuals develop to be healthy, productive, contributing and responsible citizens. Working in service to the at-risk communities in a spirit of offering hope through education and information, creating positive systemic change through empowerment.”
“I’ve been involved with Pathways ever since I got out of college,” said Bowes. “I’ve watched it grow and become what it is now.
“As a facilitator, I’m responsible for checking up on their progress, making sure they’re staying on top of their classwork and homework. If I see anywhere where it’s questionable or they may be in danger of failing, I’m responsible to become an advocate for them, relay the information to their parents. We’re here to support them to receive additional help.”
Bowes can help set up tutoring for a student, or practice character-building exercises, or simply provide a meal to a hungry teen.
“If there are any barriers that could stop them from being successful, we remove them.”
One-on-one counseling sessions with students allows for Pathways to understand the student and their individual needs.
“‘Who is this person? What is their family structure like? What is the environment they go home to when they leave Sussex Tech?’
“If a counselor is talking to a student, they’ll refer them to us. They can get referred from teachers, counselors, administrators, a parent, or just ask to be a part of it. It’s open to the entire school. It is growing, and the students really want to be a part of the program. If a student would like to get involved they simply have to inquire.
“A lot of it is word of mouth, ‘Hey, I’m going to Pathways.’ Or they hear we have a summit or a field trip, and become curious and ask how they can join. There aren’t any barriers that immediately qualify anyone to participate…”
Pathways also serves Milford, Seaford and Cape Henlopen high schools, which have 32, 54 and 55 students participating, respectively.
“We’re here. We’re always evolving and adapting. Our motto is to educate, empower and inform individuals and families so they can have successful lives,” said Bowes, “whether that’s money, or through mentorship or advocate for them. We go into the communities, we go to their churches, we go to their homes. If they don’t come to school, we’ll go in our cars to their homes and pick them up.”
The goal of Pathways, simply put, said Bowes, is to serve its community.
“We have kids who have been through all kinds of situations. We’re here to give them the hope. That’s why it’s called ‘Pathways to Success.’ We know that the path is not always easy, but we are here in the community serving to help others be successful.”
Those who are interested in donating to Pathways to Success, be it in the form of snacks or monetary support, may call (302) 858-4861. Pathways to Success is located at 31 The Circle, Suite A & B, in Georgetown. For more information about Pathways to Success and their programs, visit www.pathways-2-success.org.
Those who wish to attend the dine-and-donate on March 5 may make reservations by calling (302) 856-1836 or visiting thecountinghouse.net.
By Maria Counts