KINGSTON—Thanks to the generosity of the University of Rhode Island’s fraternities and sororities and the wider campus community, the University’s Police Department will deliver boxes of school supplies to local communities during the next few days as part of the wider annual school supplies drive, meant to aid those children whose families may not have the resources necessary to purchase supplies.
The fourth annual school supplies drive, headed by URI Community Policing Specialist Paul Hanrahan, will provide supplies for children who need assistance in elementary schools in South Kingstown, North Kingstown and East Greenwich.
“The goal is to help children who don’t have the resources to buy these supplies to help them get a good start in school,” Hanrahan said. “Hopefully, we will get some future URI students off to a good start. Not only does this help local children, it helps us engage with our campus community and our surrounding towns.”
Hanrahan said URI’s fraternities and sororities donated about $5,000 and the wider campus community donated another $300. The money allowed Hanrahan to buy everything from pencils to notebooks from W.B. Mason, Walmart and Staples. Boxes of supplies filled the URI Police Station as Hanrahan and other officers prepared to load them up for the trips to local schools.
The effort is integral in improving the capacity of young people in the state to achieve their potential. In New England, Rhode Island has the highest rate of poverty among people aged 18 and younger, making up 19 percent of all children in the state according to Connecticut I-Health, a non-profit health information organization. The national average is 21 percent.
The need for such assistance is also in the spotlight due to a report by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Public Policy earlier this year, which found that, of students in schools in Providence, 90 percent were not proficient in math and 86 percent were not proficient in English. The report also underscored a culture of rampant emotional and physical violence in the schools, and the inability of an overworked administration to address new crises.
In such circumstances, the likelihood of children coming from impoverished homes is dubious at best. An article by Drs. Misty Lacour and Laura Tissington in “Educational Research and Reviews” found that poverty directly affects school performance and that children who lack access to basic resources, such as school supplies, are far less likely to succeed in school. As such, community policing initiatives, such as URI’s supplies drive, are imperative to helping Rhode Island youth achieve their potential.
Community policing is a law enforcement strategy that centers around the efforts of local police to build meaningful relationships with community members in an effort to decrease the likelihood of crime, as well as to improve the chances of success for officers who need to interact with members of the community in potentially confrontational situations. Community policing has become a staple of effective police practice across the nation in recent years, as hot-button issues such as transparency and systemic discrimination, have gripped the popular imagination, and the URI drive is likely to benefit the stability of the region in the long term, as well as the wellbeing of those receiving the supplies.
Police Makor Michael Jagoda said this is one of the efforts that makes community policing in the form of the annual supplies drive so effective.
“URI students, faculty and staff can see us in action doing something positive, and local residents can see that URI police are interested in the welfare of local children,” Jagoda said. “So when a critical incident occurs, we will have already formed a relationship with the people we are helping. We take pride in everything we do.”