Sense of Community

Our ongoing, 10-part Community Journalism series airs quarterly

From poverty concerns to major policy decisions, this series dives beyond the headlines to provide in-depth coverage of issues facing people and organizations in the Ozarks. KSMU's team of reporters come together to produce 10 stories, four times a year;  see past espisodes of our Sense of Community series here.

Flickr User Nik / Creative Commons, Used with permission

In this segment of our Sense of Community Series on the impact of poverty on education, we're bringing you an update on an organization that’s rounded the corner on its 10-year-mark here in the Ozarks: Care to Learn.

"I’m just amazed at how resilient these kids have to be. But at the same time, that’s what hurts. That’s the thing that we need to solve,” said Care to Learn founder and board member Doug Pitt.

You may have heard that Care to Learn tries to meet the health, hunger and hygiene needs of kids in schools with local chapters.

(Photo courtesy Ozark String Project)

This afternoon we’ll look at arts education and participation among children in economically-disadvantaged circumstances—and how area educators, artists and arts administrators are attempting to counter the problem. 

For Marty Moore, Executive Director of Learning Support and Partnerships for Springfield Public Schools, the problem is that families in poverty always have to make choices about where that money’s going to go. 

"It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out those arts experiences are going to fall to the bottom of that list,” Moore said.

Pamela Bates via Flickr (Creative Commons 2.0)

Every day at school, Kenzie Warren, a sophomore at West Plains High School, sets her backpack down at one of the six rows of rectangular tables that line the cafeteria. She walks over to the small table in the corner and pulls a knob on a glass dispenser to fill a disposable, plastic cup. A thick, maroon-colored smoothie blend folds into the cup at her fingertips. Walking back to the table, Kenzie and her friend, Kaley, pluck their straws into their smoothies.


File photo / US Department of Agriculture


Welcome back to our Sense of Community series looking at the impact of poverty on education. In this segment, we look at the percentage of free and reduced lunches that kids qualify for in Springfield Public Schools. That's usually seen as an indicator of poverty levels since it's based on household income.  Here's a chart provided by SPS listing individual schools in the district and how their rates have changed over the last decade.

Jennifer Moore / KSMU

At the end of a long hallway in the West Plains High School’s career center building, there’s a room with racks of clothing and shelves of canned meat and beans. Retired science teacher Cyndi Wright is going through the supply of hoodies.