By JUDY SHERIDAN
According to Aledo ISD counselors, there’s a link between how a child feels about him or herself and his or her academic performance.
That’s one reason, they say, the Aledo Children’s AdvoCats — an all-volunteer non-profit that helps meet the needs of financially-challenged children — plays a key role in education.
“Clothes have to do with social standing in the school, and they make a pretty big impact on how [students] feel,” Aledo High School counselor Scott Kessel said. “They have a bearing on academic performance.”
Coder Elementary counselor Jennifer Kirkpatrick agrees, pointing out the AdvoCats’ Clothes Closet on Bankhead Highway — where families shop with school-furnished vouchers — has a good selection of updated clothing, some brand new.
“Even at elementary school, kids like to look really good,” she said. “If they feel good about themselves, they’re proud, and it comes out in their work and attitudes.”
The AdvoCats, who donated more than $35,000 last year to more than 350 local children, are a go-to resource in the Aledo Independent School District, not only for clothes and school supplies, but for field trips, senior rings, prom dresses, sports activities, summer camps — even medical and utility bills, counselors say.
The group also donated more than $17,000 last year for children’s Christmas gifts.
“They go above and beyond,” Vandagriff Elementary counselor Debbie Thornton said. “We just had fifth graders go to a 3-day YMCA science camp, and there were half a dozen who couldn’t afford the $130 fee. No questions asked, they paid. They’ve paid for eyeglasses, dental work, even emergency room visits and medicine.”
The programs and services offered, Kessel said, are conducted through the counselors on each campus.
“As we see needs, we relay that information,” he said.
Kirkpatrick said parents of Coder students tell her when they’re going through a rough time and update her when situations improve.
Families must fill out a request form for assistance, she said.
Requests for help with utility or medical bills — more expensive needs — require longer forms with more detailed financial information.
The AdvoCats go to the campuses to pick up the forms.
“It’s a great service,” she said. “[Students] can get three pairs of pants or shorts, three shirts, three pairs of socks and three pairs of underwear every six weeks, and a pair of shoes every semester.”
Having a Coder T-shirt is a big deal, she noted.
“On Spirit Day, they want to be part of the Bearcat family.”
Students who qualify for the AdvoCats’ services are the same as those who qualify for federal free or reduced-cost lunch programs, Kessel said, that’s how they’re identified. At Aledo High School, 112 students are eligible.
“At Coder this year 40 to 50 kids benefited from the school supplies,” Kirkpatrick said. “That number includes students who qualified for Pre-K, which is based on income level, military status or participation in English as a Second Language.”
Sometimes parents are too proud to ask, Thornton said. The AdvoCats collaborate with local churches to provide weekend snack packs for elementary students, she said, and about 60 students from Vandagriff participate.
For ethical and legal reasons, the group is careful to maintain anonymity and confidentiality about the things they provide, Kessel said. They don’t want to know names or faces.
"The district must comply with Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act laws in not disclosing identities,” he said, “and ethically, [the AdvoCats] want to insure that the family knows no one is finding out; no one is talking about this kid.”
Students are appreciative, Kessel said.
“There was a student coming to school recently in clothes that didn’t fit and were not the current style,” he said. “She had the opportunity to get clothes that fit her better, and she gave me a great big hug, although I didn’t have much to do with it.
“Last week there was a senior girl who got her class ring. All along, she didn’t think she was going to get one, but we walked through the process, and then it was done and paid for. She was wearing it with such pride.”
“They are so wonderful,” Thornton said. “Anything we ask for, they do. They show up. They help kids meet various needs.”
Run, Walk or Crawl set for April 27
The 8th Annual Aledo Children’s AdvoCats’ Run, Walk or Crawl fundraiser will be held Saturday, April 27, at Bearcat Stadium. Registration begins at 6:30 a.m., with the Kiddie K Fun Run (ages 10 and under) at 8 a.m. and the 5K Run/Walk at 8:30 a.m. Online registration for the event is available at www.AledoAdvoCats.com. through April 19. For more information, contact Tracy Stallings Reed at email@example.com.
By JUDY SHERIDAN
- Aledo ExtrA
ASK A MASTER GARDENER: Is it too early to start a vegetable garden?
Considering our winter temperatures this year, that’s a good question. When it comes to a successful vegetable garden, timing is everything. The goal in Texas is to have most of your vegetable crops mature before the temperatures soar in mid-summer.
EXTENSION NEWS: Getting more zzzs could help you lose some lbs.
We spend about one-third of our lifetime sleeping. Sleep is important for learning and memory. Sleep also helps our immune system to resist illness and disease, increases response times in emergencies, improves our mood and feelings of wellness and gives us the energy we need to be more active and alert.
VETERANS’ CORNER: Soldiers, families warned about latest Internet scam
The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command is warning about a new website scam in which criminals are attempting to take advantage of soldiers and their families.
Count of area homeless youth begins Monday
ACH Child and Family Services, Tarrant County Homeless Coalition, Crossroads Youth Ministries of Parker County and University of Texas-Arlington are conducting the first ever youth count in Tarrant and Parker counties for unaccompanied youth, ages 13-24, in unstable living arrangements (i.e., shelters, streets, couch surfing).
CASA seeks 100 new advocates to represent children in CPS care
In Spanish, casa means home, but for thousands of abused and neglected children, it’s an acronym that has even more meaning – it’s the hope of finally finding a safe, permanent home where they can thrive.
Spivack to speak at PCRW event
Parker County Republican Women will have Loren Spivack as the March 13 luncheon meeting guest speaker.
State education board candidates in runoff
Tuesday’s voting tallies signified an extremely tight race for State Board of Education District 11 candidates in the Republican primary.
Renfro in runoff for job he didn’t want
Precinct 4 Commissioner Dusty Renfro, who unexpectedly scored 1,213 votes in Tuesday’s Republican Primary while campaigning for an opponent, is still trying to lose his job on the Parker County Commissioners’ Court.
Area council, school board filings
Filings for school board and city council elections in May ended last Friday. Here are the filings for area city council seats open in May:
ALEDO – Patricia Weckel, 60, died Tuesday, March 4, 2014, surrounded by family at her home in Aledo.
- More Aledo ExtrA Headlines
- ASK A MASTER GARDENER: Is it too early to start a vegetable garden?