Hilary Duff visits FWCS to support Blessings in a Backpack - October 21, 2008

Record Number: 4432
Displayed from: Oct 21, 2008 , until: Nov 21, 2008

Actress and singer Hilary Duff visited students South Wayne and Adams elementary schools Tuesday, Oct. 21, as part of the Blessings in a Backpack program. Hilary is a national spokesperson for Blessings in a Backpack, a USA Harvest program that helps meet the nutritional needs of children and families by providing food to eat over the weekend. She also supports the program by providing more than 6,000 meals a weekend at the Normandie Elementary School in Los Angeles. In Fort Wayne, Blessings in a Backpack is offered at South Wayne and Adams with support from SchenkelShultz, Mike and Gretchen Gouloff and other contributors. Blessings in a Backpack started at Adams Elementary in 2007 and has helped improve student attendance, attention in school and academic performance. "There has been a decline in the number of students reporting headaches and stomachaches on Mondays since the inception of the Blessings program," Adams Principal Brenda West said. "Attendance has also increased on Fridays the day that Backpacks are distributed. Being present and well fed each day are necessary foundations for teaching and learning." Before Blessings in a Backpack began the average attendance on Fridays was 93.25 percent. Now, Friday attendance averages 96.8 percent. In addition, ISTEP+ achievement has improved in third through fifth grades in both Language Arts and Math. In Language Arts, the school gained 11 percentage points in the percent of students passing the exam. In Math, the gains were even greater with passing rates increasing 18 percentage points. "Hungry students do not test well. Instruction, no matter how good, does not provide food for a hungry student," West said. After one full year of Blessings in a Backpack, the number of Adams students reading at grade level across all grade levels improved from 41 percent to 68 percent, which means about 85 more students learned to read last year. In addition, the number of students reading more than two levels below their grade level dropped from 41 percent to 20 percent. South Wayne elementary was added this year to the program with an overwhelming response. "Hugs, smiles and thank you's happen every time we hand out the backpacks," Principal Tim Bobay said. "We often explain that the backpacks are not free but are paid for by people they have never met. It's almost like the children have extra parents watching out for them."

With nearly 30,000 students, Fort Wayne Community Schools is one of the largest school districts in Indiana. FWCS proudly allows families to choose any of its 50 schools through its successful school-choice program creating diversity in each school, including some with more than 75 languages spoken. FWCS offers seven magnet schools focusing on areas such as science and math, communication, fine arts or Montessori at the elementary and middle school level. In high school, students can choose from the prestigious International Baccalaureate program, Project Lead the Way or New Tech Academy as well as other rigorous academic and specialty training programs.