My Student In Need Doubles In Size

My Student in Need is starting out the new school year with twice as many schools signed on for support compared to last year.

During the summer, My Student in Need added the Billings, Helena, Kalispell and Butte school districts to its online forum of anonymous needs requests.

My Student in Need was founded in 2013 as a project of My Neighbor in Need. It began in Great Falls and has now expanded to 18 school districts, totaling more than 130 schools in the program or working to join the program.

Teachers, counselors and other school administrators can log in to My Student in Need and submit requests for items that help eliminate barriers to a student’s learning and success. Some of the most popular requests are for winter coats, shoes and general clothing.

“No one thinks of a pair of shoes as a barrier to education,” Executive Director Kim Wombolt said. “But think about that student in the winter with holes in his shoes and cold feet. Simple, basic needs can be met and we can get rid of the barriers.”

When a teacher, counselor or administrator sees a student in need, they submit an anonymous request online to My Student in Need with a brief description of the age, grade and need of the anonymous student. Donors can select districts and individual schools to view the needs and can submit a request to fulfill the need.

My Student in Need usually disperses personal hygiene
My Student in Need usually disperses personal hygiene products in bulk to not single out individuals in need of products. (Photo: Photo courtesy of My Student in Need)
Of the 18 school districts partnered with My Student in Need, Billings, Great Falls and Missoula already have submitted a total of 26 needs requests for this school year. Great Falls accounts for 15 of these. “We’ve fulfilled 1,500 needs in the last three years,” Wombolt said. “We’re averaging about 300 needs a year.”

Needs requests are often filled by monetary donations that are turned into gift cards. Teachers will often receive gift cards for general clothing items and either shop for their younger students or take their older students shopping.

Wombolt said last year Grammy-award winning trumpeter Arturo Sandoval donated a trumpet to a fifth-grader at Paxon Elementary School in Missoula after hearing word of a request through My Student in Need.

My Student in Need receives several requests for musical instrument rentals, Wombolt said.

My Student in Need hopes to add 200 more schools to its roster this year and have 300 schools by 2018. The nonprofit is in talks to expand nationally, but Wombolt said it is not quite ready yet.

Representatives from My Student in Need have been invited to speak in Florida at this year’s National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth conference about their program, its success and rapid growth.

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