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Fresh Start at Roosevelt helps students start the day

Rick Wagner • Oct 21, 2019 at 11:45 AM

KINGSPORT — Ever have one of those mornings that just didn’t go right? You are out of milk or cereal, you woke up late and didn’t have time to comb or wash your hair or you forgot to do that project that is due first thing in the morning?

Or maybe you just want your hair braided.

If you’re a student at Kingsport’s Roosevelt Elementary School, don’t fear. The Fresh Start Morning Club can provide hair grooming services for girls and boys, a quiet place for breakfast and time to do homework you didn’t get done the night before.

And if your clothes are dirty, the staff will provide you clean clothes while yours get washed and returned to you.

Roosevelt School Counselor Alice Browder, fourth-grade teachers Christy Elliott and Megan Turner and literacy interventionist Tonya Warner recently briefed Board of Education members about Fresh Start.

The program provides students the opportunity to start each day fresh, Browder said, by having time before the regular school day starts to finish homework, freshen up, read or have hair braided.

“You know how it is when you have one of those days,” Browder said, adding that her three teenage children have them often, searching for a clean pair of shorts to wear to school or cereal for breakfast.

The program starts at 7:30 a.m. and leads into the 8:05 a.m. start of school. She said 15 to 25 students each morning go to a designated classroom for beauty salon work, to brush their teeth, do homework or just read. She said many girls simply call it the hair salon.

“Even our boys come in and want something done with their hair,” Warner said. Elliott said some children simply want a place quieter than the normal morning breakfast hubbub, and she turns the lights off and plays calming music. Browder said one girl is pleased simply to brush her teeth every morning after staff helped teach her how.

Browder said she believes the program improves academics, attendance and self esteem as well as building positive relationships among students who participate.

Among participants this year, Turner and the others said responses to date have included a student excited to have a toothbrush not shared with others and getting her hair braided. Browder said she recently stopped two girls going down a hallway and asked if they were going to the bathroom and they said no, they were going to the hair salon.

Browder said the program has drawn attention from tweets she has put out that were picked up and shared on Twitter and Facebook, drawing interest from other school systems. She said donations for the program come in from the community.

The take away, she said, is that students aren’t in a position to learn if they don’t feel ready for the new day and have basic needs met first.

Browder said donations have come in from individuals, businesses and groups in the community for the program but more are needed. To donate or see what Fresh Start needs, contact Browder at [email protected] or call her at (423) 857-2600.

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