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Meeting Basic Needs to Maximize Learning Potential

Easterly Parkway's Student Support Closet Will Provide Clothing and Toiletries

In 1943, American psychologist Abraham Maslow suggested that humans have a hierarchy of needs, and that the most basic of these needs, such as food and clothing, must be satisfied before individuals can attend to higher needs, like learning. Carissa Walter, School Counselor at Easterly Parkway Elementary School, sees Maslow’s theory at work today in her students.

“Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs tells us that our basic and physiological needs must be adequately met before we can achieve anything else, therefore causing higher needs to be secondary,” Walter explains.

“State College Area School District wants to prepare students for lifelong success through excellence in education. If children’s basic needs are not being met, they are not able to fully benefit from the excellent education our district provides,” Walter says.

Walter was awarded $1,000 in the most recent round of the Education Foundation’s Student Opportunity Grants to fund her idea for helping to alleviate this pressing issue for students. Walter plans to open a student support closet to provide clothing and toiletries for students in need.

In her grant application Walter noted that many students don’t have access to clothes that fit, causing them to feel embar­rassed or uncomfortable. These feelings can result in students disengaging from classroom activities and from their peers.

The grant funds will help to fill the student support closet with clothing, such as shoes, socks, underwear, pants, shirts, and sweatshirts, as well as deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, and other essential toiletries.

Walter acknowledges that other agencies in the community also provide these services, but she points out that sometimes families encounter barriers to receiving them. For example, long wait times and varying eligibility requirements between different agencies or programs can delay or prevent services. She also notes that language barriers that can prevent families from filling out the necessary paperwork. This issue may be especially prevalent at Easterly Parkway where 23% of students speak English as a second language.

The goal for the student support closet, Walter says, is to help students fulfill their basic needs on a more immediate basis, and also to reach families who may not qualify for other assistance programs.

“Since we are striving to be inclusive, it is our duty as a district to ensure that all students have what they need in order to learn and succeed,” Walter asserts. “By fulfilling the immediate and basic needs of students, we afford every student the ability to be fully engaged in learning.”

Read the latest issue of FOUNDATION here.