In Queens, Ms. Hemans’ Young Men Need Pencils to Thrive

unnamedVivett Hemans is an 8th grade language arts teacher at Eagle Academy for Young Men of Southeast Queens in Jamaica, NY. “There is one Eagle Academy in each of the five boroughs as well as one in Newark, New Jersey,” said Ms. Hemans. “They have been strategically placed in neighborhoods that have been identified as school-to-prison pipeline regions; meaning that the majority of the men in prison throughout New York come from these neighborhoods.”

More than 70 percent of Ms. Hemans’ students enter her classroom reading below grade-level, sometimes several grades below grade-level (Teachers, read her advice on teaching literacy here).

“It becomes hard to motivate them because they know they’re behind.”

The majority of Ms. Hemans’ students are African-American or African-Caribbean, with a small population of Latinos. Most of the boys live in single-mother homes and the teachers at Eagle Academy take on the responsibility to help raise them to be young men.

As a single mother herself, Ms. Hemans understands that many of the boys in her class genuinely don’t have the resources for supplies. Some students use this as an excuse not to take their school work further, so she buys many supplies herself, such as pens, pencils, and snacks.

“I spend $80 a month just buying granola bars and fruit snacks.”unnamed-2

On a daily basis, Ms. Hemans notices the lack of school supplies and basic hygiene products diminishes her students’ self-esteem, which in turn, discourages their motivation to learn. “They don’t have deodorant, lotion or just basic things like tissues,” she said. “I just went to Dollar Tree and bought $20 worth of tissues.”

Ms. Hemans is raising money now to ensure that she can start the next school year with the basic supplies her students need. Reaching her funding goal would help her breathe easy. “Teachers don’t earn a lot,” she said. “I’m a single mom. It’s hard because I have to buy for my children too and a lot of times they say to me, ‘Mom, everything we need is in your classroom.’”

How much is Ms. Hemans putting into her classroom?

“The school only reimburses up to $40 and between July and the end of the year I’ve spent $1,000. Then when it comes time again for testing season I buy another $200 worth of pencils, highlighters, and paper.”

Ms. Hemans has an active project on until August 1st to raise money specifically for pens, pencils and paper to start the school year ahead well-stocked for her incoming 8th graders.

Vivett Hemans’ Classroom Project Deadline: August 1, 2015 Funding Need: Pens, Pencils and Paper Grade: 8th Location: Jamaica, NY

Learn more or donate to Vivett Hemans’ Classroom

June Featured Classroom

It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of funding projects that aim for innovative technology or big classroom improvements. Those projects are great, but many teachers struggle to access basic supplies, too.

These students, and the teachers who do everything they can to support them, need pencils and deodorant and books to read. They’re not asking for much, but those small things would make a huge difference in their school experience. To find a teacher like Ms. Hemans in your neighborhood, click here.

Teachers: Can you relate to this story? Register you classroom now and check out our Teacher Tips to increase your chances of adoption. You can also email Program Coordinator Melissa Hruza at [email protected] to request your classroom be featured in future posts.

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