HANNIBAL — Supporting students with issues outside of the classroom has become something crucial to the success of students in school.
Dr. Meghan Karr, assistant superintendent for student services at Hannibal Public Schools, relies upon the Hannibal Alliance for Youth Success, known as HAYS, for extra support for students. HAYS will receive financial support from the 2019-20 United Way GIVE HOPE Campaign.
"HAYS has really been valuable," Karr said. "As a principal and superintendent I have seen families share trials and tribulations that they need support through."
Families have found support through the work of HAYS. The organization strives to support children in Hannibal by collaborating with area organizations and partners in order for all children to be equipped with what they need to become a successful, contributing member of society.
The HAYS organization is made up entirely of volunteers. These volunteers have implemented the district’s mentoring program, buddy pack program, student support services, and more.
During the school year, HAYS provides over 400 Buddy Packs that contain food for the weekend to students. These bags contain peanut butter, assorted granola bars, canned pasta and more.
"All items require little to no preparation provide a nutritious option for children over the weekend when school is not in session," Karr said. The bags are provided to students who come from households that face food insecurity. These bags ensure students have a meal between lunch on Friday and school breakfast on Monday.
HAY’s mentoring program is another way the organization supports students in the Hannibal District. Currently nearly 50 community volunteers mentor a student within the district through HAYS. Mentors are retirees, business leaders, civic leaders, and more. Each week while school is in session, these mentors meet with students often eating lunch, playing games, or simply sharing the day-to-day experiences.
"These volunteers often start at the elementary and then follow their students as they grow and progress to the middle school and high school," said Karr. "Mentors build a long-lasting, positive relationship, and an additional support for students, often times like a personal cheerleader!"
For Karr, she sees the positive impact mentors have made in the lives of students. By having a constant support person, students know they have someone vested in their success.
In addition to the mentoring and Buddy Packs, HAYS also has financially been able to assist families who are in need. At times the organization has purchased needed household necessities, paid for needed medications, and provided basic resources when no other options were available. The organization has purchased gas cards for families who are having to travel for needed medical procedures. The wrap around support for families is something Karr has relied upon in her role at the district.
The organization is currently working on a large event to benefit many students.
"There is a need to support physical and the mental health of students," Karr said. On October 2nd, HAYS will be hosting the first ever Student Health Conference for all high school students. Students will attend sessions that will support their physical, mental, and financial health as well as connect them to resources in the community.
The goal of the Student Health Conference is to equip students with the knowledge they need to become productive adults and know what they can do to support their peers.
Previously the organization has brought in speakers to the Hannibal Community to speak on opioid use, suicide, trauma, and more. The scheduled Student Health Conference grows the educational outreach component of HAYS to an entirely new level.
"We are always looking for new ways to support students," Karr said. This event will support students in many ways. Karr knows she is blessed in her role as Assistant Superintendent having HAYS to rely upon for an additional avenue of support for her students.
HAYS will benefit from the 2019-20 United Way Campaign. For more information on HAYS and how you can get involved visit http://www.hannibalalliance.org/.