Trojan Tribune

Poverty in Wayzata High School: A Complex Societal Issue

Johnny+Latimore+%2811%29.+Photo+by+Catherine%0ALins.
Johnny Latimore (11). Photo by Catherine
Lins.

Johnny Latimore (11). Photo by Catherine Lins.

Johnny Latimore (11). Photo by Catherine Lins.

Catherine Lins, Staff Writer

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  “I stayed at home and worked for over 60 hours because that is how I had to survive,” said Emory Solomonson, a senior at Wayzata High School whose family struggles financially.
  For students in the Wayzata School District who live below the poverty line, life is not very different from Solomonson’s. Junior Johnny Latimore shares a similar problem with his family’s income and struggles regularly in the Wayzata Public School System.
  “Being a lower-income kid in Wayzata is hard because for the majority of students, things come so easily. I usually don’t get to participate in a lot of stuff. I’m a poor kid in a rich man’s world,” said Latimore.
  Solomonson said, “My family has to jump through hoops. We are really close with the social worker because if you need help with paying for anything, that’s the extent that you have to go to. There are a lot of experiences that it’s hard to
take advantage of because they cost too much.”
  “For students whose families study financially, this can be a
hard place to be because there is the underlying assumption that everybody has money. I think when you’re the one that does not, it can be harder to speak up. It can be a hard place to be with the peer pressure,” said Wayzata High School Social Worker Becky Halvorson.

  With programs like Fund-A-Need and the National School Lunch Program available in the Wayzata School system, low-income families are able to take advantage of opportunities within the schools.
  “Marching Band does an Orlando tour every two years and through the good grace of family friends and school scholarships, I was able to go. I was able to get a free plane ticket through the school and I held fundraisers to raise money,” said Solomonson.
  “Cheerleading is really difficult. I still haven’t paid for registration so I don’t even know if I’m supposed to be cheerleading. The money just hasn’t come to us yet,” said Latimore. “It makes me feel bad that we can’t pay for our own things. There have been a lot of times where I’ve sat at home right before a cheer tryout or practice, and my mom would tell me that I couldn’t cheer for that season because she doesn’t know if we could pay for it.”
  “Last year was my first year at Wayzata High School but I had quite a few kids that were utilizing the Trojan Closet for the snack bags. I know for a lot of them there was hesitation with taking it but once they understood that there wasn’t judgement about it, they were open to it. A lot of the kids that I worked with didn’t want that to define them, they wanted to be like everybody else,” said Wayzata High School Social Worker Callie Fiedler.
  Both Solomonson and Latimore want to change the attitude that students at Wayzata High School have towards their lower-income classmates. According to the Minnesota Department or Education, 13.2% of students in the Wayzata district struggle financially.
  “There are a lot of people that I know who think that there is no one here who uses programs like Empty Bowls or the Trojan Care Closet. They think that if you’re working, it is only for extra stuff. Sometimes they don’t realize that the money I get from my job has to go towards my groceries or my soap for the week.” said Solomonson
  According to the Minnesota Department of Education, 11.29% of students at Wayzata High School qualify for free
and reduced lunch. 295 students receive free lunch and 74 receive reduced price lunch.
  Latimore said, “Something that I would like to say to other students and especially to the faculty; there are kids here who dress a certain way because they can’t afford a lot of things. Dont assume things about them. People always assume that kids who dress down are delinquents. A lot of the time it is because they can’t afford nice clothing. I would say that staff members watch specific students and have a specific attitude towards them because of the way that they dress or look.”
  “One time my friend even paid for my registration and I was so happy that I started crying but I told my mom about it and she started crying for a different reason. She said that it made her feel poorer because money like that doesn’t come by us like that and for other people, it is so small and frivolous.” said Latimore.
  Solomonson, like most low-income students, is hesitant when it comes to taking advantage of certain programs at
the high school. When discussing the Trojan Care Closet, Solomonson said, “I never wanted to tell anyone that I was
going to get a bag of food because that is how I’d was going to be eating for the rest of the week.”
  “Everybody is always paying for me or doing things for me. I just feel so needy and it makes me feel poorer to the point
where I do appreciate them doing it, but sometimes I wish that they wouldn’t,” said Latimore.
  For more information on the resources available for low-income students, visit the Wayzata High School social worker’s page or schedule a meeting with a social worker at any of the floor offices.

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Poverty in Wayzata High School: A Complex Societal Issue