The Nest was recently created at Bryant Junior High School to meet a variety of needs for students.
The idea for the program came from Counselor Alyssa Wildschuetz. Being originally from Conway, she was inspired by a food pantry at Conway Junior High School.
The counselor brought her idea to School Resource Officer Shanna Hastings. The two had bonded over being from a similar area of the state.
Once while she was visiting the counselor’s office, Hastings also saw students who were in need.
“That’s how it got going,” Hastings said.
Wildschuetz, along with Hastings, believe it was important to “have something that can meet the basic needs of our students, so that they are better prepared to sit in class and just worry about what is going on in class,” Wildschuetz said.
For a time, members of the school’s Student Council were collecting donations and making bags for students to take home during the weekend, but Wildschuetz and Hastings began seeing students who needed items on a daily basis.
According to Wildschuetz, between the two grade levels at Bryant Junior High School, 39 to 44 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch.
Members of the council have taken the lead to organize and inventory the items in The Nest.
“It gives them ownership. They are the leaders of our school. They were nominated by their peers to be in this position and they get great satisfaction out of doing it,” Wildschuetz said.
The Nest took off once Hastings got involved, Wildschuetz added.
Hastings, through the district’s social media and the Bryant Police Department, shared information with the community about the program.
Several officers have chipped in to help and the department’s Fraternal Order of Police has pledged to make a donation to the program.
“A lot of our officers have reached out to their contacts to see if they can get donations or host donation drop offs,” Hastings said.
Along with help from officers, the program has received plenty of positive feedback, especially from teachers within the school.
“They (teachers) see that need and are super excited that all students are being taken care of,” Hastings said, adding that several community members have stepped up to do their part as well.
With support from administration and available space at the school, Wildschuetz said the program has “fallen into place.”
Individuals are welcome to make a donation of any kind for the program, but program organizers said there is a specific need at this time for winter weather items such as coats, hats, scarves, gloves and jackets.
The school has washing machines on site that council members can use to wash the donated coats and other clothing items.
Students in need also use these washing machines, as well as showers at the school, to get dressed each morning.
Students wear a variety of sizes but the most common sizes needed are medium, large and extra large, they said.
“With the colder weather, we want to keep these kids warm. A lot of these kids are waiting for buses in the morning or getting off the bus in the afternoon and don’t have a coat to keep warm,” Wildschuetz said. “There is a desire to keep them taken care of during the winter months and provide for them in any way that we can.”
Hastings added that she has seen students with light and well-worn jackets. Once she talked with them, she learned that was the only jacket they had.
These items may be dropped off at the school or at the Bryant Police Department.
Program organizers are also asking for formal wear donations since the school will be hosting a formal dance later this month.
Other common needs include socks, underwear, hygiene products and nonperishable food items. Organizers suggest food items that can be microwavable and have pop tops.
This program, like others at Bryant High School and other schools across the district, supplement the Parent Center which provides items for the entire district.
By supplying items at the school, it takes some of the burden off of the center and students are quickly items to access items.
“The Parent Center is amazing and if we need anything they are here like that,” Wildschuetz said.