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V.A.U.L.T. helps lift students up

The new, aptly named V.A.U.L.T. at Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School stands for Valuing And Uplifting Lives Together.

Dedicated last Friday, the V.A.U.L.T. is a discreet room at the school where students can get clothing, toiletries and other needs to help themselves and their families. It is well supplied and stocked with a number of necessities students may not have.

The student population at Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School covers a wide range of socioeconomic strata, but overwhelmingly, the students there come from families in need of assistance. More than two-thirds of them qualify for free and reduced lunch, officials told reporter Jimmy LaRoue recently when he covered the opening of the V.A.U.L.T.

Students should not have to go to school without decent, clean clothes and shoes; should not have to try to muddle through school without the proper supplies; and should not have to go through life without toiletries and hygiene products such as soap and shampoo. Such things not only can cause shame and embarrassment and open them up to bullying but also just aren’t hygienic or safe.

The dynamic duo behind the V.A.U.L.T. was school counselor Kandace Tysinger and dean of students Melissa Zawodny, who see the needs of students on a daily basis and took charge of this project. But the project was a true community effort, with no fewer than seven local businesses, churches and groups, as well as the school staff, getting the effort started with donations, fundraisers and free services. We anticipate there will be much involvement in the future from those willing to help, also.

The goal is to be able to open the V.A.U.L.T. to the community once per month and be able to supply students with everything they need for school breaks, as well.

Major kudos go to Tysinger, Zawodny and all the others who helped make this vision become a reality.