H.E.R.O. Helpers

Helping Hands: Students Manage Expanding Inventory at MNPS Homeless Education Program's Big New Space
Posted on 02/07/2023
HERO volunteer sorting and folding clothes

The MNPS H.E.R.O. program has a new group of heroes helping it stay organized in a new space. HERO volunteer folding clothes

H.E.R.O. – short for Homeless Education Resource Office – moved last summer into the old Buena Vista Elementary School building north of downtown. The move has given the program, which serves approximately 3,000 to 4,000 students and their families, significantly more capacity to bring in community donations of shirts, pants, shoes, winter coats, backpacks, food, household items, and more.

And the community’s generosity has created a greater demand for help keeping up with all the new inventory. That’s where Ke’nyah Sherrell comes in.

Ke’nyah, a senior at Pearl-Cohn High School, works at the H.E.R.O space three to four days a week through MNPS’s Work-Based Learning program, which gives students opportunities to work and get paid while also earning academic credit. She folds and shelves clothes based on the age and gender they’re made for. Some days she helps fill backpacks that will go to students.

“I like that it’s helping other people,” said Ke’nyah, who plans to go to college and study nursing after she graduates from Pearl-Cohn this spring. “I feel it’s a great jumpstart. I get to see different aspects of how people are giving back to others. It’s different than telling people you just work a regular job.”

Jennifer Ruben, warehouse coordinator with UniCycle, the H.E.R.O. program’s nonprofit partner, said Ke’nyah has made a big difference.

“It’s great to have someone,” Ruben said. “I need another Ke’nyah.”

The H.E.R.O. team also has benefited from the work of a group of Exceptional Education students who help at various job sites in Nashville. One day last month, two students who are recent graduates of Hillsboro High School were on hand to sort donated coats, dropping each one into the appropriate basket for its size. work-based learning students in HERO office

“This is what they’ve been working for,” said Lori Murray, an MNPS job coach for Exceptional Education students. “It’s gaining job skills, skills for working out in the workforce.”

Catherine Knowles, coordinator of the H.E.R.O. program, said she and her small staff are depending more and more on students and volunteers to help them serve their clients efficiently.

“We couldn’t do this without a lot of helping hands,” Knowles said. “We appreciate every donation and every person who helps us make these essential items available to our students and their families.”

How You Can Help

Learn more about how to donate school uniform items through the H.E.R.O. program's nonprofit partner, UniCycle, or email the team's community partner specialist, Jami Oakley to find out how to host a food drive for the H.E.R.O. Pantry, volunteer your time, or donate another needed resource, such as gas cards or new underwear.

volunteer hugging a student

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Work-Based Learning,Exceptional Education,Homeless Education Resource Office,HERO