Leesha Faulkner


It’s not often the Oren Dunn City Museum steps into a fray. We usually have our heads stuck in the past.

But there are times when the past becomes present. We believe that time has arrived for the children of the Tupelo Public School District.

The last year proved rough for all of us because of the pandemic. Regardless of your politics, facts are that many people became sick, and many still get sick because of the variant. Many of us lost relatives, friends and co-workers. Still, some living here couldn’t work – because of illness, because of having to take care of someone sick, because workplaces closed briefly.

Now, we face a variant. We face recovery – and, seemingly, that goes fairly smooth. Of course with any measure of rebounding, bumps exist. We all know that.

Some of the hardest hit in this time are our kids – our students. Many of them have dealt with masks, virtual school, classes in person with restrictions. Many of them have had to deal with worried parents and guardians about meals and paying bills and health issues.

It’s time for school to begin again. With the surge in cases because of the Delta variant of COVID-19, we’re uncertain how that will finally look. Our Tupelo Public School District remains steadfast. And already – even when we thought we were close to normal – our folk in leadership positions took a stand and began to reach out.

When students arrive in their classrooms this year, their school supplies will be furnished. Right there. On the desk – or at least in their classrooms. Parents won’t have to shell out the dollars for the pencils, paper, glue, crayons … the necessities for learning.

But what about something to help carry those supplies and books?

We’ve seen students carry loads of books and notebooks with pencils sticking out of their pockets. We’ve seen other students lugging paper sacks that contain books and supplies. Still others drug around plastic sacks or garbage bags. They just couldn’t afford the backpacks.

Yes, a backpack costs about $15.

But consider this: 23% of our school children live below poverty level. Seventeen percent survive on food stamps or SNAP benefits. Thirty-six percent of the children attending Tupelo Public Schools live with only a female, who is attempting to support that family. Those figures are for 2019-2020 school year, the best available from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Now, if a mom of three making $20 per hour is faced with cost of a home, utilities, transportation, medical and food, where does the $15 fit in? Does she give up the hamburger meat or chicken, fresh vegetables, and milk that would provide her family a good meal to purchase three backpacks?

Here at the Oren Dunn City Museum, we think about the present in connection with the past. We want our students to succeed and not have to worry about carrying around books and supplies. We want our parents to breathe a little easier.

Our Tupelo Public Schools folk have provided the supplies. Please, help us at the museum to provide backpacks for our children.

We’re collecting new backpacks now. And there are ways. Some stores offer packages of backpacks – 17 to 24 in eight different colors for $134-$150. Sunday school classes, civic clubs, neighborhood groups, friends and other clubs could chip in a few dollars each and give to this effort.

Help us. Help us in the true Tupelo Spirit. Let’s reach out to our school children.

After all, we are, as Superintendent Rob Picou says, “One Single Heartbeat.”

LEESHA FAULKNER is curator of the Oren Dunn City Museum. You may reach her at leesha.faulkner@tupeloms.gov.

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