Site Coordinator Hillary Gramm brings needed resources to more than 90 at-risk students.
Communities In Schools site coordinators are all about impact. And if we’re talking impact, then we need to include Hillary Gramm. At McWhirter Elementary School, a site supported by Communities In Schools of Bay Area in Houston, Texas, Gramm brings needed resources to support more than 90 at-risk students. And there is no better example of the impact she’s making than what she was able to provide last April for one of her students diagnosed with kidney failure.
After it was determined that nine-year old Katherine Beltran would receive a kidney transplant from her mother, Gramm set out to help the entire family have one less thing to worry about – household expenses. With the young student remaining in ICU, her mother would have to miss work while staying at home to heal, and her father would need to miss work caring for Katherine’s mom. Gramm rallied local church members and community donors to raise more than $2,000 to cover rent and utilities, and to donate Kroger gift cards and food while the family was taking time off from work.
In three years at McWhirter, Gramm has also started a mobile dentist program, a clothes closet and food pantry, and she has coordinated a book fair where she collected and gave away nearly 1,000 books.
In October of 2011, Gramm was one of four site coordinators to receive honorable mention for the Communities In Schools Unsung Heroes Award.
“Is she making a difference? Absolutely,” said Dr. Michael Marquez, the principal at McWhirter. He mentioned that outside of Gramm’s office window he can see four cartons of food, donations made thanks to relationships the site coordinator has built over the years. And that he went to her office this afternoon to bring a student who had no jacket but was too embarrassed to ask for a handout. Marquez knew Gramm was the one person who would be sure to provide the girl with what she needed from the school’s clothes closet.
“Hillary has a dignified way of helping our students and their families. It is a complete benefit to our community to have her.”
Considering all that her background includes – mentoring, advocating on behalf of foster children and volunteering for a crisis hotline – Gramm’s role as a Communities In Schools site coordinator came as a natural fit. She’s the first to admit, though, that her initial plan to follow in the successful footsteps of the previous site coordinator did not get the results she’d hoped for. After just one semester Gramm realized she needed to create her own campus plan, one that better reflected her passions.
For Gramm that meant journaling. Soon after introducing her fourth and fifth grade students to the process of self-expressive writing she began to see positive results.
“My seventh-grade teacher had us journal,” she said. “It increased and improved my confidence, and helped me with my writing skills. I see the same happening with my students.”
The students write weekly and the assignments are never graded. They are given a topic, but there is no right or wrong subject. The initiative has been so successful that the younger students are looking forward to their turn at journaling. Gramm has even given the journals to the Communities In School middle school site coordinator so the students can continue writing. “Each year I aim to do more,” said Gramm, who completed her Master’s degree in December. “I like spreading the word that Communities In Schools is effective, and that I’m here to help.”
And in being there to help Gramm, will continue to make an enormous impact in the lives of students in need.