Person of the Week: Principal's mission to help students turns into community project
(11/09/18) - When Dionna Ross shared a Facebook post letting her friends know she was collecting toiletries and other items for a pantry at Hamady Middle School, she had no idea it would explode like it has.
The mid-Michigan educator has witnessed the goodness and generosity of the community she serves take shape in less than a month.
Initially she had donated items to students out of her own pocket.
"I started this years ago when I was in the classroom, 10 years ago maybe longer than that. And whenever I would see students without things I would purchase it," Ross said.
Now a principal at Hamady Middle School, she' has accepted her multifaceted role like many educators. Ross even embraces it.
"There was a very apparent need," Ross explained. "Some students were getting bullied. I'll be honest. Some students were teased because of their odor or what they have on."
While there are ongoing efforts here to end bullying, another problem persists, and Dionna isn't the only one who noticed it.
"One of the parents mentioned she wanted to see items available for our middle school students. She wanted to see toiletry items and I said 'Okay that's a good idea,'" Ross said.
The idea, with the help of a shared Facebook post, has turned into the
. The pantry is a resource, like the school's washer and dryer, helping families who may be in a tight spot.
"I would say 30 to 40% of our students that would receive the help because now teachers would refer students to me that they see need some things," Ross said.
There are roughly 200 middle school students here who are smart and engaged. Ross wants them to stay focused.
"We want the students to concentrate on their education. Not worry about what I look like or what I smell like," Ross said. "The more items we give out the less of a stigma it will carry, so I think more students will be open to receiving items and saying 'Hey I ran out of deodorant. Do you guys have some deodorant I can have?'"
She wants the pantry to be a year-round asset and welcomes anyone who is moved to donate to bring toiletries and winter items to the school's main office.
"Now it's not just me, it's everyone," she said.
In fact, she says a large part of their supplies have come from people who aren't even affiliated with the school.
"If we can help alleviate some of that stress I think we have done our job because, you know, so many things are out of their hands," Ross said. "They're kids. And some parents do the best they can and still may not have it. And so we want to take a lot of that off their hands, and we want to have their backs."