Strawberry Crest ESE teacher Shauna Kornegay and her class are coordinating Seeds of Hope’s Backpacks of Hope program and providing food for students attending Bailey Elementary.

The students in Shauna Kornegay’s exceptional student education (ESE) class have partnered with Seeds of Hope to continue Backpacks of Hope, a club that was established five years ago but is on the verge of disbanding because the school administration couldn’t find a club sponsor.

Kornegay, who has been teaching at Strawberry Crest High School for seven years, was excited to offer the service-learning opportunity to her students. Her students already participate in Crest Buddies, a program that helps her students form friendships with other students at the school. She even helped her students start a business selling custom buttons that are made in the classroom.

But she wanted to do more.

“I’m always looking for opportunities to help my students learn skills that will increase their employability,” she said. “It’s also important for them to learn social skills by seeing how other students at the school interact with each other.”

The backpack program provides more than 30 children at Bailey Elementary School (located across the street from Strawberry Crest) with a bag of nonperishable, easy-to-prepare food every Friday afternoon to be enjoyed throughout the weekend, which includes jars of peanut butter and jelly, a box of cereal, boxes of macaroni and cheese and a box of pasta. The food is placed in a bag and distributed discretely.

Seeds of Hope supplies the funds to purchase the food, provided by community donors and grants. A regular or International Baccalaureate (IB) student does the shopping on Monday night and brings the groceries to her classroom, where her students sort and package the food into grocery bags.

“It’s teaching skills that would translate to working in a grocery store,” said Kornegay.

On Thursdays, she and her students walk to Bailey Elementary and deliver the food bags, where its staff repackages them into the kids’ backpacks.

“This is a unifying project that all students can participate in,” she said. “This club has had such a positive impact not only on those we serve but our entire school.”

Seeds of Hope President Leda Eaton is grateful for Kornegay and her students and pleased the program is able to continue at Strawberry Crest.

“We are so much more than food to people,” said Eaton. “We see the value in providing these service experiences to every student.”

For more information about Seeds of Hope, visit www.sohopefl.org.

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MIchelle Caceres has been writing for the Osprey Observer for seventeen years. She enjoys writing human interest pieces about inspiring members of the community who are working to better our community. She lives in FishHawk Ranch with her husband and recently became an empty-nester. When not writing, Michelle is serving her church community, reading and enjoying Florida's weather.