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GSE Students Support Family Shelter

Future Teachers Fundraise, Volunteer at House of Hope

Neil MacDonald displays quilt
Graduate student Neil MacDonald displays the handmade quilt he won in a raffle sponsored by the GSE’s Graduate Student Organization to raise money for the House of Hope family shelter.

By Jill Gambon

Diapers, baby wipes, bottles, pacifiers and car seats, all of them items that parents of infants and young toddlers routinely stock up on. But for families living in homeless shelters, those necessities aren’t always easy to come by. To help families in need, students in the Graduate School of Education (GSE) have been raising money and collecting items for the House of Hope, a family shelter in Lowell.

The students raised $800 with a recent raffle of a handmade quilt. Designed and stitched by Shanna Thompson, president of the GSE’s Graduate Student Organization, the blue and white quilt was adorned with the school’s logo. The students started selling tickets at Family Day in October and concluded the raffle at the Women’s Work Holiday Art and Craft Fair at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center Dec. 1. Proceeds will help purchase car seats, booster seats and supplies for the Winter Babies Collection, a student-run drive to gather a variety of baby care items for House of Hope families.

The GSE has a history of working with the House of Hope. Last year, Thompson worked as a researcher on a pilot project led by Asst. Prof. MinJeong Kim, which studied the literacy practices of the residents. Thompson met with families every week, sharing books, creating stories and even visiting the Museum of Science in Boston. Kim developed a literacy program for residents based on the research. The experience shed light on the challenges homeless families face when it comes to education, says Thompson, who is a doctoral student in the GSE's Leadership and Schooling Program as well as a teaching assistant for the department. “I loved working with the families. It was a great experience. As a teacher, it was very helpful to learn what they are up against,” she says.

Sowing Seeds of Hope

For GSE students, being engaged with the community is a crucial part of their preparation as educators, says Anita Greenwood, GSE’s Interim Dean. “As future teachers, it is so important for our graduate students to understand the lives of the children they will teach. By incorporating literacy work with the House of Hope into our courses, our students recognize the importance of supporting the community in which they work.” 

GSE student Neil MacDonald bought the winning ticket for the quilt raffle.  Thompson plans on creating another, smaller version of the quilt to donate to the school.