A few days ago I was enjoying a few unplanned minutes of relaxing conversation with some friends. As we chatted, our conversation drifted to education, school, and our children. We each had very strong and similar feelings about our community schools and children. An interesting note, as you know, I am the mother of a 16-year-old, one friend is the mother of four children all under the age of 10 and the other has no children, yet we all are passionate about investing in the future, our children.

The conversation was prompted by a social media post we had all seen, a mutual friend shared a story of another community whose schools had built a needs pantry. In the pantry was everything from toothbrushes, to soap, to socks, to deodorant. The idea, backed by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, is to meet a student’s basic needs, freeing them from worry and allowing them to focus on learning. A simple concept, but a very real one. The post did not knock our schools or teachers, rather it encouraged community members and businesses to donate what they could to support the initiative.

As we talked about this post, our conversation hit on the fact that teachers do so much more than teach, they inspire, they invest, they mentor, they parent. Sadly, many children come from homes where both parents work, sometimes multiple jobs just to try and make ends meet. Parents want to give everything to their children; money only stretches so far. Teachers want and do give our students the very best education possible, with limited resources and paying for extras out of their own pockets. We all agree, as a community we must step in and support our schools, teachers, parents and choose to invest in our children.

Earlier this school year, I wrote a column stating we need to stop complaining about our schools and teachers and instead ask what they need, how can we support them, what can we donate. Even with a child in high school, I still ask my daughter’s teachers what they need, what support I can offer, what supplies I can bring in. When my daughter is in college, I will find a school and ask what I can donate. I will continue to help, volunteer, donate and invest no matter how old my daughter is. The simple fact is we must all invest in our children, we must all work to let every child know they have potential, value and worth. No matter how incredible a child’s parents and support system is, it is vital every member of the community share this message. It is only when we unite to lift up our children that we will see true community change.

I would like to challenge each person and business in Lawton. Reach out to a school, ask what they need and donate it. No questions or comments, simply donate. Rather than complain about a school or teacher, call them and ask what you can do to support them. When buses drive through neighborhoods, stand on your porch and watch our precious children walk home.

No matter how amazing Lawton ever becomes, it will never be able to maintain the successes and changes without first investing in our future, our children. Join me as we stop complaining and instead reach out to support, lift up and give. Join me in my mission to tell every child they have value and meaning. Join me as we fight to invest in our future.

I enjoy hearing from my readers. You can reach me at believestrengthpassion@gmail.com.

Sara Orellana-Paape lives in Lawton.

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