After McClain High School teachers puzzled for years over how to discretely meet the needs of underprivileged students, the school implemented a program in October 2019 to help alleviate those needs: MHSmart, former McClain English teacher and current McClain library media specialist Gretchen Foltz said.
“The MHSmart program began because, for years, teachers have recognized the needs of our students, specifically in the high school,” Foltz said. “A lot of their needs were met on the down-low by various teachers. We decided we needed a program to help those students, so we created a form on our website to direct them to MHSmart. On that form, they can request clothing, school supplies, hygiene products, and even funding to help pay for things like test fees or caps and gowns.”
Not only does the online form allow students to discretely get the help they need, but Foltz and other McClain employees are trying to make picking up the requested items discrete as well.
“We call the student down to the counselor’s office and say, ‘Your stuff is ready whenever you can come pick it up,’” Foltz said. “They can come down, maybe at the end of the day, and they can stick it in their book bags or their lockers, so nobody even knows that’s what they’re doing.”
Staff members can also make requests for students.
“Any staff member who sees a need can submit the request online for them, so then the staff member gets the items and gives them to the student,” Foltz said. “That’s really where the needs are identified. Whether students ask for it or not, their needs can still be met. If they don’t take it, then we can keep the stash for others.”
Though the high school doesn’t currently have a space where clothing can be stored until students need it, Foltz said they work with the Greenfield Area Christian Center.
Foltz said their goal is to expand the program in the future, so students’ other needs can be addressed.
“We are planning to start a food pantry aspect, but this is a process,” Foltz said. “We don’t have the space for one; we don’t even have a room for such a thing yet. That’s a future plan. We have ideas for what that’s going to look like, but that’s not in place. We have had kids request food, and we can provide those things short-term — just for weekends. It’s nothing lavish, but we do have things in stock. If we don’t have it in stock, we can find it. We’ve had about 27 responses, and maybe 50 percent of those are saying they need food on weekends. It’s not in place technically, but we do try to do it.”
Foltz said it’s important to have a program like MHSmart at the high school.
“We want young kids to be able to eat and have their needs met, and there are parent-teacher organizations for that, but the high school really doesn’t have a built-in resource,” Foltz said. “There are kids who are living on their own and working, and they can’t afford to pay $40 for a cap and gown or get a prom dress.”
Foltz said that though requests like graduation dresses and prom dresses may take more time to procure and may involve working with outside resources, they’ll do their best to get such items for students.
She said students have been appreciative, and she hopes more will use the program.
“I’m not the one who came up with the idea — I’m just the one who’s the big mouth about it,” Foltz said. “This is the culmination of a lot of people’s input. We’ve talked about it for years; we’re just glad it’s finally able to happen. We have to keep the ball rolling.”
Foltz has presented on the program to various local organizations. If an organization is interested in hearing her presentation, they can reach her by calling the high school at 937-981-7731 and asking to speak to her. Foltz can also be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those who would like to donate to the MHSmart program can write a check to “MHSmart” and drop it off in the high school office. Checks can also be mailed to 200 N. Fifth St., Greenfield, Ohio 45123 Attn: MHSmart.
Those who would like to donate clothing can drop off items at the Greenfield Area Christian Center, located at 912 N. Fifth St., or at the high school counselors’ office. Items dropped off at the high school will be delivered to the GACC. Foltz said the GACC sometimes runs low on “hot items” like hoodies and jeans.
McClain High School students can request items through the MHSmart program by going to greenfield.k12.oh.us/MHSmart.aspx.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.