EXCHANGE: Program helps homeless children in central Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — When Ronnie Lashbrook was in elementary and middle school, his family lived in two homeless shelters. He didn't have a lot of things, including a father figure.

But he had support from School on Wheels, a Central Indiana agency that helps homeless children achieve academic success. Since 2001, the organization has helped more than 4,500 kids.

Now, as an adult, Lashbrook goes back and volunteers.

"It is one of those things that you really want to be able to give back to something that did so much in your life," Lashbrook said.

School on Wheels runs after-school programs at homeless shelters and programs in schools where a high number of their children attend, said Sally Bindley, founder and CEO of School on Wheels. Tutors work with students to get them prepared for school the next day — whether it's finishing homework or working on organization and study skills.

Indiana has seen an 81 percent increase in the number of homeless students from 2008 to 2013, according to a recent report by the nonprofit Indiana Youth Institute.

The data show that the state had more than 16,200 homeless students during the 2013-14 school year.

The organization finds that students can be on track academically, but because of the stress of their home life, school can fall by the wayside, Bindley said. They provide intervention during a chaotic and challenging time.

Lashbrook said the organization helped him academically and emotionally. Growing up, he looked forward to seeing his tutor after school.

"It was really helpful to have them in my life," he said.

"We believe passionately and without a doubt that education is the key for these kids to break the cycle of poverty. Without education, they will repeat the situation that they are in themselves," Bindley said.

The tutoring program partners kids with one of the group's 400 volunteers. It also works with parents to become partners in their children's education. They run workshops and help parents work on establishing contact with their child's teacher.

"These are not kids that are without parents. These are not kids who are without schools. These are kids just like my kids - who just need a little bit of extra academic support so they can become successful in life," she said.


Source: Indianapolis Star,


Information from: The Indianapolis Star,

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