Sixty-five percent of the student population at the school is in either in foster care or is homeless.
Author: Madisson Haynes
WASHINGTON — There’s an elementary school in Southeast, D.C. that’s entire student body is economically disadvantaged. Sixty-five percent of the student population is either in foster care or is homeless.
“We actually sit on the hill in Southeast D.C. It’s considered one of the roughest areas in D.C.,” Principal Kristie Edwards said in an interview with Ellen DeGeneres. “But that’s OK. When our students come in here they expect the same thing — that’s to get love, a hug and to ensure that they’re in a safe space.”
The teachers at Randle Highlands often use their own resources to provide for their students. They pay for school supplies, use school laundry machines to wash their students’ clothes and send them home with dinner. Edwards said every single one of the 350 students at the elementary school receives a free lunch.
“My teachers really go above and beyond,” Edwards said. “We’ve seen teachers take families to the grocery store and buy groceries for the families.”
Administrators recently started a cooking club so students can take home produce from the garden and prepare meals at home for their families.
“Everything is about how we can make things better for our students,” Edwards said.
First Lady Michelle Obama and Ellen DeGeneres took notice in the school and how administrators care for their students, and decided to do something about it. They donated $100,000 to the school to help build a computer lab and offset school expenses.
“Ellen is giving you guys $100,000 to help you cover whatever expenses that you have for the school, whether it’s the food pantry, or whether it’s computer programs, we hope that this will make sure that you won’t have to go into your pockets any longer for these kids,” Michelle Obama said said when presenting the donation.
DeGeneres also donated a new basketball court, brand new computers, laptops for the teachers and enough iPads for every single student.
This gift will allow the teachers and students at Randle Highlands to focus on education and their relationships with one another, which is what Edwards enjoys about being an educator.
“When you are in a building where the children show you so much love and you show it back to them, that makes me want to be better every single day,” Edwards said.
And the students love their teachers right back.
“My favorite thing about my teachers is that they all take time to have fun and learning at the same time,” one student said during an interview with DeGeneres.
“I like my teachers because they never give up on me,” another student said.
Michelle Obama said she wholeheartedly believes in giving back to your community.
“Growing up my parents always taught me that it’s not enough to go through life just working for yourself,” Michelle Obama said. “You gotta reach back and lift others along the way.”
This gift will help the school worry less about financial struggles, and more about education. And while the school didn’t have a lot of resources to begin with, Edwards said they still had each other.
“If nothing else, my legacy will be that they knew that they were loved by me,” Edwards said.