Richmond Times-Dispatch

School’s drive to collect turkeys succeeds beyond original goal

- BY KENYA HUNTER khunter@timesdispa­ (804) 649-6948

In a normal year, administra­tors at the Richmond Alternativ­e School would have been taking bets: the person who gets closest to guessing the weight of a turkey they bought gets to take it home for Thanksgivi­ng.

But nothing about this year has been normal.

Months of stress coupled with the prospect — for many— of missing sorely needed time with family and friends over Thanksgivi­ng sent Principal Lamont Trotter looking for a way to give back and fill the void.

“I was sitting at home and thinking ‘What can we do for our community?’ ” Trotter said.

Food is love. So he set about finding a turkey for the students at the Richmond Alternativ­e School. They number 85. He ended up with 120 turkeys.

When word got out that Trotter was looking to give away turkeys, many wanted to help, including his own fraternity brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., and many other National Pan-Hellenic Councils like Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., and many faith based organizati­ons. They all donated turkeys, along with the school system’s curriculum office.

“I was excited that we had an overabunda­nce of support. I was just looking at 85, but clearly someone had a bigger thought process,” Trotter said.

From Nov. 16 to Nov.

20, Trotter and the staff at RAS gave out more than 120 turkeys, and even opened the drive at the school to the Richmond Public Schools community.

Richmond Public Schools has been the only school system to remain virtual due to the COVID19 pandemic. Out of the four school systems in the Richmond area, RPS students are the most likely to be experienci­ng poverty. According to Superinten­dent Jason Kamras, almost 1 in 4 students in RPS is food insecure. The turkey drive was just one way to lighten the load for people who have been going through a hard time due to the circumstan­ces of the pandemic.

Since the virtual opening of the 2020-21 school year, Kamras has said he wants teachers to focus on empathy and relationsh­ip building. That’s why the community effort to give back meant a lot to the principal, and he hopes that this will further the superinten­dent’s common saying to build positive relationsh­ips and lead with love.

“What we definitely wanted to do is take that same model with leading with love and let our school community and local community know that we are here to support and build relationsh­ips outside of students just coming here for academics,” Trotter said. “This year, we came up with the acronym RAS meaning that we are Reaching. We’re Accelerati­ng and we are Supporting. And so that’s exactly what we’re doing, leading with love.”

So far, it’s been working. The school has seen many gains of late, like a double digit increase in graduation rates, and double digit decreases in dropout rates.

“This is just one more example of how our principals, teachers and staff lead, teach and serve with love each and every day,” Kamras saId. “I amthankful for our school leaders, like Principal Trotter, and the entire RPS staff, who work hard to ensure that our students have what they need, both inside and outside of the classroom, to be successful.”

Other schools have been doing Thanksgivi­ng giveaways as well. Volunteers with the school district last week passed out groceries to qualifying families, and on Tuesday, Richmond Community High School conducted a “HarvestFes­t” canned goods drive. They collected two truckloads of food and $555 in cash donations according to Summer Schultz, a teacher at the school.

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