JFK High School students in Iselin hosted their first-ever “Rent for Mothers” fundraiser this winter.
According to Dawn Santana, advisor to the Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) chapter at Kennedy High School, the goal of the fundraising is to provide a month’s rent relief to an African-American single mother.
Santana is also a JFK High School teacher and the head girls varsity soccer coach.
FCCLA is a national education non-profit organization with chapters in public and private schools across the United States.
Many fundraisers were sponsored by JFK students, including an after-school “Lip-Sync Battle of the Teachers” night. Their fundraising efforts came to a close on Feb. 17 with a block party conducted during the school day, where youngsters were given refreshments and drinks, as well as the opportunity to play games and dance.
Woodbridge Township, under the direction of Mayor John McCormac, also contributed to their efforts, and the children raised a total of $3,652.
According to Santana, all of the funds will go to a single African-American mother in the state of New Jersey. She stated that the non-profit is primarily looking for a mother who is about to be evicted. She also stated that she wanted to have this fundraiser in February because it was Black History Month.
The recipient will be chosen by a non-profit called Done For DiDi, Inc., which aims to provide rent support to African-American single mothers in the United States.
Because of the wealth and income disparities between white and African-American New Jersey residents, Santana believes it is critical that the money go especially to an African-American single mother. According to the New Jersey Center for Social Justice, the median income of white households in the state is $91,764, which is more than 60% higher than the median income of black households, which is $56,301. In the Garden State, whereas three-quarters (75.9%) of white families own their own houses, only 38.4% of African-American families do.
While it is admirable to do food drives, clothes drives, and toy drives throughout the holiday season, the major source of stress for poor and lower-income women, according to Santana, is paying their monthly rent and trying to secure a house for a family.
“If we were able to help give even one month’s rent relief that would give that mother the ability to buy her own kids a present, or a ‘new’ clothing item or even take them out to dinner or maybe bring home a pizza instead of whatever the pantry was able to provide them,” said Santana. “Most importantly it also gives that mom an opportunity to not be embarrassed and have a sense of pride and self worth.”
“After raising this money, we were extremely proud of our students,” she said. “This was a true testament on how when a school, students and teachers come together, they could make a difference and start changing the world.”
To raise the funds, the students collaborated with the Kennedy National Honor Society and the JFK High School Black Student Union.
“When Ms. Santana first approached me, I was immediately excited about the idea,” said Laurentee Bernard, Black Student Union advisor. “Although our students are constantly giving back to our Woodbridge community, I thought this was an excellent way to educate our students about the issues many Black single moms have with paying rent every month. The students in Black Student Union jumped at the chance to raise money that directly helps the African-American community. Many were previously unaware of the amount of rent disparity in New Jersey and this was an incredible learning opportunity for them.”