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Funds used for caps, gowns for some seniors

Funds raised during last year's inaugural Stride 4 Shelter Bubble Run were immediately put to good use, as will funds raised during Saturday's Bubble Run.

Last March, the Lawton High Key Club with the help of Eisenhower High Key Club raised $4,203.73 for the McKinney-Vento program. Some of it was used right away for graduating seniors identified as homeless students, said Andrea Winstead, the district liaison for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Program. 

"There were students who couldn't get caps and gowns for graduation and that money helped," said Sean Tolbert, president of Lawton High Key Club. "All the proceeds after any costs go to the program, which covers things that parents would normally pay for including club fees, uniforms, school supplies and field trips. Items that help the student to participate in activities and feel that they are part of the school." 

Number increasing

The number of students who are identified as homeless  those who do not have a "fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence," as per the program's definition  has increased many-fold since 2009. But it isn't because they add to the previous number of students, she said. "We start with zero at the beginning of each school year and every year there is more and more. ... Once we can identify them, we can get services to them."

There may be many more who are homeless, because "it is a problem to get them to identify themselves. Some are homeless and refuse to take anything," Winstead said, explaining that they worry if anyone finds out they are homeless and have to move to a temporary couch across town, they may have to stop going to the school they feel is a safe haven for them. 

Imagine living out of a backpack, never sure where you are going to stay overnight, hoping it is safe, food will be available and there will be a place for you to study or sleep? Winstead said. 

"Teachers sometimes have backpacks in their rooms that they are holding for the kids who can't bring much to where they are staying that night. (The students) are very vulnerable, especially the girls, staying on someone's couch and they can't close the door," Winstead said. 

The McKinney-Vento program is designed to help make these vulnerable students' school life better, giving them a chance to graduate. 

The funding for the federal program is not based on the number of students. "We're always short ... although the funding has increased a little bit nationwide." 

The Lawton Constitution

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