For this Feature Friday, we caught up with Becky Melonson, a curriculum support specialist at Epiphany School in Seattle, Washington. Becky has not only been coordinating supply drives with Sister Schools for nearly 15 years, she has even traveled to Uganda with us (and she brought her son!).
When she’s not at school, she says, “I have my nose in a book, antique hunting, gardening and crafting.”
Hear more from Becky in her own words why Sister Schools has been a force for good in her school and personal life.
To start, tell us about your school.
We are an independent, non-parochial school serving Pre-K through 5th grade students—about 240 total each year. I support all teachers and work hands-on in Pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade classrooms. My favorite role currently is with Pre-K because I get to present an exploring of culture and crafts time.
How did you get involved with Sister Schools?
In fall 2006, Terry McGill was at a fundraiser dinner that was attended by our Head of School and a few others connected to our school. Terry was then invited to present at our school, and we held our first supply drive that fall. I attended a couple of events that featured students from Uganda singing, dancing and reciting poetry. I inquired about traveling with Sister Schools.
In 2007, I traveled with Terry to Uganda. I was lucky to have one of my sons with me and an alum of my school. It was an incredible gift to be on this trip with my son and the rest of the group. Our school has done supply drives off and on since then.
Each year, whether we do a supply drive or not, I collect shoes at the end of the school year. I also ask for any items that teachers are editing from their classrooms. Then sometime during the summer, everything is picked up or delivered to Sister Schools.
As an educator, what part of our mission and program connects with you most?
The theme of caring for others. What small thing can I do to make things better for someone else? The children are moved to help others, and our teachers want to help fellow educators. It can be as simple as a child now knowing that Africa is a continent and Uganda is a country in Africa, or it can be the connection of seeing another child holding an item that they donated. It truly is one of the only times a person can see that their donation go to a person that can use it.
What kind of impact has Sister Schools had on your students?
The best moment for the children has always been the positive message about the needs of their partner schools and then the return trip with picture pairs. The long-term impact of Sister Schools can be seen each spring when students that have long since graduated from our school still bring me a pair or two of shoes for children in Uganda. I have one family that brings me a bag of shoes every year and their children are college grads. A student was so moved by one of Terry and Ella’s visits, that she brings me shoes and pencils throughout the school year. This started in kindergarten and she is now finishing second grade. Her mother reported that her daughter is naturally a caring person, but this really moved her in a way that has stuck with her even when we don’t have a donation drive.
If you could tell our partner schools in Uganda ONE THING, what would you say?
One thing I could say to partner schools in Uganda – this is a hard one! I think it would be that we care about you, we are sending love and best wishes, and as partners in educating children, we are in this together!