What's Right with Our Schools: The Learn Center

11:35 PM, Dec 7, 2011   |    comments
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Students at one school are learning what some call life's greatest lesson. They are developing a sense of compassion by fulfilling a basic need for their own classmates. 

According to experts, 1 in 4 people receiving services at East Tennessee soup kitchens and homeless centers are children. That need is something some school districts see in their students each and every day. 

Those at Anderson County's Alternative School, The Learn Center, are fighting hunger in their own school system by earning community service credits. 

Student spend time out of the classroom working instead on a make-shift assembly line. One by one they bag things like pudding, granola bars and even beans and franks. 

Each ready made meal kit will go to an Anderson County student who depends on the non-perishable food when they can't get free meals at school. 

"We're all doing a good thing here. People feel good about it when we do it. After I do it, I just feel good. I feel good that I did a good thing to help the -- well anybody," said 10th grader David Nelson. 

"Food for Kids" is part of a regional program organized by Second Harvest. Teachers at the Learn Center introduced it to the Anderson County School System five years ago after seeing and hearing the needs of their own students. 

"It's surprising to see how many kids will open up and say, I'm hungry. They come and tell us they're hungry. And then we start asking, well, did you not eat at home? Is there a need? Are parents out of work? And they tell us. All their needs," said 9th and 10th grade teacher Andrea Livingston. 

That is what The Learn Center said the students' work is all about, helping their classmates and at times themselves while learning something they won't get inside a classroom. 

"I think it's the greatest lesson they can learn is that there's other people out there that need help, they may need help, but there's others just them," said Livingston. 

"I'm thinking that you should help anybody if they're in need. Cause some day, they might be able to help you," explained Nelson.

Anderson's Food for Kids program is set to recieve a huge boost on Thursday. All the bagged, non perishable food is purchased with grant money and donations from local groups. 

Now, a new Oak Ridge company called UCOR is stepping in. They are donating $7,000 to the program on Thursday. 

Second Harvest said it is a tremendous gift that will help hundreds of students. "$7,000 will let us expand to four additional middle schools we're in a 11 schools right now in Anderson County so that's a lot of growth for us," said Second Harvest Development Director John Bell.

"We felt like the school system, which we know is struggling like any other business, with budgets, could really benefit from if we support it," said President and Project Manager at UCOR Leo Sain.

UCOR is a clean-up contractor for the Department of Energy in Oak Ridge, They are primarily focused on cleanup of the former K-25 site.

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