School Initiatives

Schools & Churches Working Together

We're Here To Help Our Kids Thrive

Russ with City Manager Assistant City Manager and School Superintendent discussing best ways to help impoverished neighborhoods by working together


Picture the mayor and the superintendent of schools, inviting pastors to bring church volunteers to elementary schools across the city.   New friendships begin where volunteers engage with at-risk children and their families in meaningful and relevant ways.  That’s Elevate.


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Shoes for Schools

Elevate has launched Shoes for Schools to provide shoes for 6,000 students at 21 schools whose free and reduced lunch rates are at 58% or greater. 


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Helping Hearts and Hands

“Helping Hearts and Hands”, a formal partnership between Springfield Public Schools (SPS)  Elevate Lives, and over 35 local churches, has been created to recruit, train and engage local congregations in meaningful, strategic, relational based interaction with the schools with higher populations of free and reduced lunch programs.


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60% of Kids Need Help

On average 59.48% of youth in Springfield Public Schools are on the Free/Reduced Lunch Program. The range of need in each school varies from 18.68% at Gray Elementary to 95.52% at McGregor Elementary (2016-2017 SPS Annual Report). Income inequality and socio-economic segregation are clearly present in our public school system. The very system that has historically been a tool for social mobility has become overwhelmed by the challenge to provide basic needs so that students can get a basic education that often leaves them behind their peers in more affluent schools. For example, MAP scores from six low-income elementary schools show an average of 36.6% of youth scoring below average on third grade English Language Arts testing, as compared to 22.0% of Springfield and 19.6% of Missouri (2014-2015 SPS Annual Report). This difference in attainment between youth in more affluent vs. low-income situations occurs for several reasons and each reason is as unique as each child in the school system.


Many Reasons for Kids Falling Behind

Some youth are behind because they are hungry and cannot concentrate, other youth are embarrassed to read aloud because someone may make fun of them. Elevate’s model acknowledges these differences and provides a network of trained volunteers from local churches to meet each unique need. One group of volunteers may organize a food drive to feed those that are hungry. Another group of volunteers may train to become literacy tutors and help children become more confident readers. Each need will be identified by teachers and principals in each and every school Elevate works with.  These needs will be entered into MeetTheNeed - a computer based software system so Elevate’s network of volunteers can tailor the best response for each need.  


Elevate Brings People Together

In addition to ensuring that students have their basic needs met, Elevate also wants to help bring people together. Dr. Robert Putnam and others have documented the need for families of all income levels to interact. In his most recent book, Our Kids, Putnam documents the change in American society from the 1950s to present. At one time, it was not uncommon for a low-income family to live in the same neighborhood as the local business owner or doctor.  Now zip codes and neighborhood lines divide us. This creates a system of cultural reinforcement that can hinder a youth’s sense of self-worth and self-efficacy. Over time this perpetuates the cycle of generational poverty and creates a situation like the growth of poverty from 9.9% in 2000 to an estimated 25.7% in present day Springfield, MO (2010 Census and 2015 ACS five year estimates).


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