Students fight child poverty

By Clayton Norlen, Staff Writer

Students in the LEAP program are taking a stand against child poverty in their own communities by reaching out to youngsters in need of school supplies.

As part of Child Poverty Awareness Week, LEAP students are collecting items such as Legos, puzzles, children’s music or water color paints to donate to the Neighborhood House, a nonprofit organization in Salt Lake City that offers services to help families in need, said Jacob Brace, the executive director at the Neighborhood House.

“(LEAP) is helping us stock our classrooms so we can continue to provide quality care for children impacted by poverty,” Brace said.

For LEAP students such as Gretchen Wilson, the decision to assist is a simple one.

“Children don’t have a choice and can’t do anything about the situation they are born into,” said Wilson, a sophomore in chemistry. “It’s easy to make a difference in these kids’ lives.”

Wilson said her only hope is to be a role model for at least one kid.

The Neighborhood House offers its service to the public with payment based on a sliding scale. Many of the children at the house come from single-parent households where the mother or father make less than $15,000 a year. Wilson said she appreciates the idea that the Neighborhood House allows children to receive more focused attention throughout the day, because a single parent’s time is typically more divided.

“If everyone on campus did something small for these kids, it could make a huge difference to them,” Wilson said.

LEAP students have stressed the importance of U students realizing poverty isn’t a distant thing. According to LEAP, more than 1.3 million children in the United States live in poverty, and in Utah there are an estimated 96,678 children living below the poverty line.

Alec Clayton, a freshman in the LEAP program, said that before enrolling in the class, he hadn’t realized poverty was such an issue in Utah.

“We are just trying to raise awareness around child poverty,” Clayton said. “Donations, change of items from the wish list, will help these programs. People need to realize this problem exists in their own backyards.”

The U and the Neighborhood House have maintained a close relationship since the Neighborhood House opened 114 years ago. However, Brace said there is always a need for more volunteers or support from students on campus.

“We always have a need for volunteers to read and interact with the kids,” he said. “Right now, in this economy, that type of participation is needed more than ever.”

Brace said the Neighborhood House continually attempts to capitalize off of the talents of volunteers to provide more for the students. If people have a background in a particular skill set such as art, music or theater, then the day’s program can be tailored to that subject, he said.

Students can donate items in boxes at buildings around campus until Friday.

For more information on the Neighborhood House or to get involved visit or call 801-363-4589.

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Tyler Cobb

Students in LEAP are fundraising around campus for child poverty awareness part of the program is to show how little impoverished children eat. some receive barely enough food to fill a 3 oz. cup each day.