UMF’S Student MEA (Maine Education Association) club has launched a semester long campaign to promote awareness and tackle child poverty in the Franklin County area. Student MEA president Stephen Riitano came up with the idea after completing his practicum and reading “Poverty, Be the Difference” by Donna Begal. “The idea behind doing this is to be getting preservice teachers involved in just how real the [poverty] situation is here in Franklin County,” says Stephen. “By addressing the privileges and fortunes that some of us have, and then being able to put ourselves in other’s shoes (and sometimes those people don’t even have shoes), it allows us to better understand where they’re coming from.”
Student MEA has been collecting clothing donations for children in the area. While the clothing drive has ended, they are still taking donations of gently worn clothing that children in the area could use. Along with collecting donations and various items, Student MEA will be hosting events to education preservice teachers, promote child welfare, and get the whole community involved.
The National Education Association awarded UMF’s Student MEA with a grant that allows them to do work in the community. Student MEA decided to take a narrow approach and address the issue of child poverty. Through this campaign preservice teaching will gain education and awareness of how poverty can effect students both at home and in the classroom, and how they can help those students prosper.
Student MEA will be hosting various events across the semester, including an entertainment night in March, a panel discussion about diversity that will be cosponsored by UMF faculty and administrators in April, and possibly a carnival day for children. Student MEA is interested in hearing other ideas and getting more of the UMF community involved. “UMF students and faculty can get involved by spreading the word,” said Stephen. “You do not have to be an education major to help. You do not have to donate money to help. It is as easy as educating yourself about the issues that are prevalent in Franklin County. You can be a resource for those who are struggling.” If you are interested in getting involved, join their meetings on Thursday nights at 7:30 in the Theodora J. Kalikow Education Center- room 103.
“By knowing our students both in the classroom and their life outside, we can better address the needs of those students and promote and foster their success” says Stephen. “Education is a way for all to rise, but if we have children coming to school without the basic needs being met, they are set up for failure.”
On behalf of the UMF community, we are very proud of Student MEA and their efforts to make a difference in the community and the lives of children, and we are excited to watch this campaign flourish. #OperationGiveBackUMF