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Her co workers contributed to the BackPack program because they are drawn to kids who are confronted early with how tough life can be.
have this place in their hearts," Atkinson said. "First it was Franklin Elementary, then it was Joe Foss. For those kids, it was 'my school.' "
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Jenn Atkinson helps with the program for teenage parents and served as the counselor for middle and high school students. This is her first and only year in the 91 year old building.
A frame schoolhouse had been at the Fifth Street and Franklin Avenue corner since 1879.
The building now houses the Ombudsman alternative high schools, truancy day school, middle school and high school out of school suspension programs, the Joe Foss day care program for students who also are parents, and two other alternative programs, WINGS and SAFE.
In the fall, the programs will move to the building on West Avenue that now houses Axtell Park Middle School. Those students are moving to the new George McGovern Middle School on Maple Street in northwest Sioux Falls.
17 people employed at the alternative school anonymously contributed $300, enough to provide weekend snacks for four students through Feeding South Dakota's BackPack Program. Consider it a thank you to a neighborhood that has embraced the school since it was built in 1923 as Franklin Elementary.
"The kids that come through are going to be our main priority," Mills said. "It's not the location, but more a mission of what we stand for and what we're trying to do, who we are."
Atkinson transferred to Joe Foss from Anne Sullivan Elementary, where she would distribute the backpacks before the weekend. Before that, she helped with the program at Washington High School.
At the same time, however, it's the people, not the building, that touch the students for a lifetime.
The interim principal likes to think, however, that one of the staff's final gestures of community service to its northeast Sioux Falls neighborhood will make an impact at Whittier Middle School or a nearby elementary.
This year's switch in staff mirrors the diversity of the Joe Foss neighborhood, one which sees frequent changes, said Carmody, who came out of retirement to guide staff and students through the final year.
Students have raked leaves from neighbors' lawns. Carmody patrols the schoolyard collecting trash that might blow down the street. One staff member has scooped snow from nearby driveways. The school has made an impact for decades.
The students also want to help others, Mills said. A shed building project several years ago raised money for Children's Miracle Network and Children's Inn. A free musical at the Orpheum Theatre let Joe Foss students educate the community about who they are and what the school stands for.
watch (the elementary students) put it in their backpacks and say, 'I'm going to eat New Balance Blue Suede 574 Sneakers this on Sunday with my brother.' Some maybe only had one backpack, but some are gracious enough to share with their brother or sister," she said.
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Joe Foss staff gives backpack program a boost
The employees, who periodically look for community service activities, know the BackPack Program benefits students.
Only a few teachers and counselors from the alternative high school remain in the building this year. Staff members were reassigned to other schools when the school board put a private company in control of alternative education for the district.
Janell Mills moved with the alternative high school from downtown, where it occupied what is now Bowden Youth Center. She works with WINGS as a counselor and the transition coordinator for students coming in from placement.
"(We) know that one little piece can help the kids out over the weekend," Atkinson said. "It's a really good thing."
Carmody realizes the Joe Foss staff never will know which school the four kids they are feeding actually attend.
"In high school, you watch the students come in and they're like, 'This made my day.' At Washington, I don't think any of those students never said thank you. If we can see them Monday fed and nourished, it's a great program."
"We had to get to know each other and work together, and it is working, which is actually kind of cool," she said.
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