Marshall schools' social worker develops resources for local homeless children

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Every year, Marshall Public Schools does its part to help needy children within the community make the most of their education by aiding in the elimination of everyday hardships through the district's SAFE program.

Gabriel Gray, Marshall Public Schools' District social worker, is in his third year working with the federal homeless aid program to ensure homeless children in Marshall have an equal education opportunity.

"My job is to assess each situation and eliminate as many barriers to ensure the young person's educational success," Gray said.

This program is one that schools throughout the nation are required to provide, Gray said, and has most recently been revised in 2001 in support of the No Child Left Behind legislation.

The Marshall school district includes more than 2,400 students, and more than 200 of them from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade have been identified as being homeless this year, according to Gray.

Children in the community receive assistance in paying for educational fees as well as for expenses such as glasses repair and dental work if they don't have proper medical insurance.

"There are different beliefs whether we should be helping with that or not, but it's not the kids' fault, we don't want to hurt the kids for it," Gray said.

Money for the program is provided in two different forms. Two of the past three years the school district has received a grant from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

The department is given money by the federal government to be distributed among school districts within the state.

A total of $600,000 is given to the state of Missouri with a maximum of $150,000 given to specific districts. The Marshall Public School District is one of seven districts in the state awarded money this past school year.

Gray also has created the Marshall Public Schools' Golf Tournament, which held its second annual tournament on May 12. The tournament is designed to provide money for the program during the years grants are not awarded to the school district.

This year's tournament was held at Indian Foothills Golf Course. It was an open tournament with 38 teams participating, a rise in numbers from last year's tournament consisting of 21 teams.

Last year, the tournament raised $3,000 and was able to increase that number to $5,000 this year.

Gray gives partial credit for the increase in numbers to Marshall Chrysler Jeep Dodge, which was prepared to give away a Chrysler Sebring in the event of a contestant hitting a hole-in one. This was the first year for a prize offer of that magnitude.

Many of the contestants this year donated their winnings back to the program.

"They gave back hundreds (of dollars), which was a very admirable thing to do," Gray said.

The tournament was sponsored by numerous businesses and organizations throughout the community. It was headed by a committee of five including Gabriel Gray, Jason Varner, Jeremy Stanton, Derek Lark and Eric Lark.

The top three teams of this year's championship round were Dave Hartley and Mark Hemeyer, Doug Smith and Mariano Sebrie, and Ben Jacobi and Les Jacobi. The top three teams from the flight A bracket were John Simmons and Allen Criswell, Mike Griffin and Billy Hutchinson, and Charlie Rayl and Mike Hammers. The top three teams from the flight B bracket were Robbie Piper and John Allen, Luke Schaefer and Nick Schaefer, and Phil Raines and Al Gotmer. Bringing in the top three slots for the flight C bracket were Jason Fann and Ron Fann, Ryan Kirby and Bill Hudson, and Rick Stanton and Berry Fitzgerald.

Contributions to the district program can be sent to 860 W. Vest, Marshall, MO 65340, attention Gabriel Gray.

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