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Episode 16: Copper Hills High School’s Mama Grizzly

She looks out for students who may not know where their next meal is coming from, who may need a warm winter coat, shoes, boots or students who simply need some support outside the classroom. In this episode of the Supercast we head to Copper Hills High School to meet someone affectionately known as “Mama Grizzly.” Milonie Taylor is the school’s homeless liaison and is constantly looking out for the basic needs of students facing unique challenges in life.


Audio Transcription

(00:15):
Welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host Superintendent, Anthony Godfrey. She is affectionately known as mama grizzly and has a passion for looking out for students facing unique challenges in life challenges like worrying about where their next meal might come from today. We head out to Copper Hills High School to visit Melanie Taylor. The school's homeless liaison. Melanie gives us a look inside the principal's pantry, where students are finding the support. They need to stay in school and find success. But first we talked to two students who say they are not only surviving, but thriving because of the support from mama grizzly and copper Hills. So I'm here with two students at Copper Hills High School talking about the principal pantry. I'm surrounded by shelves of clothing and backpacks and school supplies and food and other household items are lining the shelves in this little room. It's kind of odd shaped, um, a room. I didn't really even know existed. Although I've walked by this door many times. Tell us a little bit about what, um, how the store has benefited you, how the principal's pantry or store has benefited you.

(01:37):
Um, the principal's pantry is super amazing. Um, when I first came in here, I was completely overwhelmed cause I didn't know what to do. And then I got food and um, I got like a winter coat and some winter clothes, which was super awesome. And she gave me a blanket, um, which is not really something that you think you need, but now it's like amazing. She there's lots of things in here that you don't really realize that you need, um, until you come in here and you think, Oh yeah, like I need like some toiletries that I didn't even think that I needed or like even hats and gloves. Um, yeah, it's super awesome. Just to be able to have all of this available to you.

(02:11):
So you're almost in a frame of mind of trying, just to think about how little you can get by with, and you come in here and you realize some other things that could help. Yeah, absolutely. How about you? What your, what is your experience been?

(02:25):
Um, at first, when she pulled me aside and told me that I could be getting these benefits, I was really hesitant to accept them. Cause I felt, even though like my situation wasn't good, there was always somebody out there who had it like worse who could benefit more, but after her coming and like telling us that it really is for us. And we are really the people who are meant to be receiving these items, it made me feel more comfortable, accepting, help. It helped, it helps a lot with like food clothing that I don't have and just getting food for the house.

(03:04):
It's really great that you're able to come down here and get that help. Who are you referencing? That's been helping you here.

(03:11):
Melanie Taylor. She's been, she's the one who, um, comes down and helps all the time, but really just the community as a whole. Um, especially during Christmas time we get a bunch of donations and they really like, they help out the whole community just by saying like, Oh you, you're one of those who needs help. So we're going to help you, which is super awesome.

(03:30):
Is it hard when you know that you're in need and, and, and you know, that you need help? Is it hard to ask or to feel comfortable getting that help?

(03:39):
It can be, it can be a little bit, cause you have, you have a lot of pride in yourself. Like I can, I can make it on my own. I can, I do it. Um, but then there just comes a point where you realize that you need help. Um, and the community here is super awesome. So I didn't even, I wasn't scared. Like I knew everything would be confidential. And um, even my friends here that know what I'm going through, they're super helpful to me. I even have teachers that will, um, give me food. Sometimes they're always checking up on me. I've had teachers that will like, um, contact me and be like, Hey, you weren't at school. Are you doing okay? Um, so yeah, it's really, it's been amazing. Um, at first she feel kind of alone. Like I'm, I'm going through this all alone. I don't, I don't have anyone with me, but then you realize that you're surrounded by people who are always there.

(04:23):
It makes all the difference to be part of a community like this, where other students and teachers and Melanie in particular are looking out for you. No, of course. Tell me a, not only has Melanie helped with providing you what you need, but she's also made you feel comfortable take advantage of what's available.

(04:44):
Um, yeah, she is seriously like the second mom to all of us, the amount of effort and care that she puts forward. And like how far she reaches her heart goes beyond a lot of things.

(04:57):
Where would you be without the help?

(05:00):
Um, honestly I probably, I wouldn't come to school nearly as much. Um, school gives me a gas card. I live 30 minutes away. And so the gas card helps me so much to be able to come to school. Um, it really, without this, I probably would just, I wouldn't really have a good community around me. I'd probably just try to stay away and like try to figure things out on my own and I wouldn't be able to be as successful as I am now.

(05:26):
Thank you. How, how, how do you, where do you feel you'd be without it,

(05:30):
Without the help? I feel like I would be going down a road that is not very ideal for most teenagers. Um, so to have like the grizzly mom would kind of take us out and take us under her wing in a way it really helps a lot to know that somebody is looking out for you. And I could see myself very easily going in an opposite direction without it.

(06:00):
And these are such important years having the help right now in high school so that you can get a great foundation for other choices in your life going forward. I think the positive impact of this whole community is going to be long lasting and not just this community, but your efforts making the most of the opportunities given to you, which you're obviously doing. And I really applaud you for being willing to accept the help and making the most of the opportunities that you're given. Thank you. Uh, you both get to participate in Christmas for kids. Are you looking forward to that? And what are your plans?

(06:37):
I'm super stoked when she told me about it, I was like, I don't, I don't know what to say. I'm so excited. Like I don't even know what, what to do. I'm so I'm so happy. Um, I'm going to go and I'm probably gonna go Christmas, not only for me, but for my siblings as well. It'll be a lot of fun. How about you? Uh, probably very similar to what she is doing, like trying to use the extra resources to help my siblings.

(07:05):
And that's what I heard you say earlier is that you're not just taking care of yourself, but you're helping take care of your family as well, which makes it possible for you to be able to focus on your studies

(07:14):
Does a really good job at making people feel comfortable with getting yourself what you need.

(07:20):
Sounds like a lot of people could use a Melanie in their lives. You're fortunate to know her.

(07:25):
Absolutely over care. We call her our, um, grizzly mama, cause she really is. She calls us down every week. She like makes sure we're all taken care of. And she really just connects with us all the time. And it's super amazing.

(07:36):
Nobody takes better care of people than the grizzly mama. I can tell you that. So, okay. Thanks. Both of you for talking with me, stay with us. When we come back, we hear from Melanie Taylor, better known as mama grizzly at copper Hills. Hi. Hello. My name is Steven Hall. I'm director of the Jordan education foundation. Have you ever experienced what it's like to surprise a teacher in the classroom with school supplies, books or a classroom grant? Have you seen students all smiles because you cared enough to give them a backpack, a winter coat weekend, food backs or a free holiday shopping spree. It's something we see all the time because it is exactly what Jordan education foundation does. The foundation exists due to the generosity of people who care about kids, if you would like to be a part of supporting students and teachers in the classroom, contact Jordan education foundation and start making a difference today, you can find us at Jordan education, foundation.org. Welcome back. Now it's time to talk to mama grizzly herself, Melanie Taylor. So what does it mean to you to get to work with these students?

(09:06):
I love that I can help. I just, you know, I have two boys of my own and I can't imagine if they were in this situation and didn't have help. And this school is so amazing. Our community's amazing. Um, our administration, our counselors, the teachers, it's just a huge grizzly family and we take care of our Cubs and you know, whatever we have to do to do that. That's what we're going to do with, within our limits. And the programs that we have available are fantastic. Um, you know, the gas card, so they have transportation, the food, the clothing, um, we have shoes, we have backpacks, we have school supplies. There's, you know, what we have is pretty much limited unlimited, um, and they can get whatever they need without question. And I want them to feel comfortable. I don't want anyone ever to fill feel bad or feel like they're taking from someone else or, you know, they're not deserving because we're all deserving at some time or another in our life. I mean, I've had times in my life where I've had to live on top ramen. So, you know, I know young starving college students, so I know, I know. And I just, even if they have to eat ramen, it's still, they're getting something. And so I love that

(10:20):
This is a true investment in the future.

(10:23):
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. These kids can. And even if it's just pay it forward, you know, we've helped you take this and then go pay it for it. And I have, I have had students that I've helped in the past years that have brought stuff in, they brought their dresses, they brought their clothing. They've brought, um, their slightly used clothes and shoes and coats to help another student that might be in need. Um, our custodians got all of these school supplies, so no one has to be without school supplies.

(10:51):
There's a multiplier effect. Once, once you start helping, then everyone pitches in and it strengthens the community and the, the, the momentum is, is really something that just doesn't stop.

(11:04):
No, it doesn't stop. This is why we have piles of clothing here that I need to get put away because the community knows. Now the teachers all know the community knows. Um, I have my neighbors across the street will bring me clothing. I had a lady come in yesterday that brought me three beautiful prom dresses that she wanted to donate. They're sitting in my closet. Someone can use these. And it really is. We have a huge community here, um, of caring people and everybody's involved. And like I said, these are my Cubs and I gotta take care of them. And, and I have great backup. It's not just me. I mean, it takes a village and we have an amazing village at copper Hills,

(11:43):
Taking care of other people is a really important part of education and the copper Hills community.

(11:48):
Very, very, very important. I mean, I think that's, you know, it's a joy for me to be able to come to work every day because I know there's somebody that I get to help and there's somebody's life that I get to impact. And there's someone that I can, even if it's a notebook or pencils, I mean, I've had kids in here that are crying because we have a bottle of shampoo for them. They can't wash their hair, you know, a comb or a brush. It's amazing. The impact, just something that we take for granted every day that we don't think anything of that if you don't have it and you don't realize it, it's amazing how much it helps

(12:20):
Understanding the need, the way you do helps you do such a great job of making kids feel comfortable, accepting the help.

(12:27):
Yes. And I think it stems back. Um, my best friend, our senior year got kicked out of her house and was living in her car for a while. And this was quite a few years ago. And I just remember what she went through and the things that we, I worked at Godfather's pizza and she worked at Smith's food King, and I would get toilet paper from godfather. So she would have toilet paper. And I don't think people realize that you just, you know, and so I was directly impacted at that age where these kids are, and I know the struggles that she went through, um, and the help that she needed. And there wasn't any programs like this. So the fact that we can help them and, and we can help them stay positive, we can help them stay on track, help them stay in school. That's my most important thing because your school will start to suffer because that's the first thing that starts to go. You got to work extra hours, you go buy extra things. You have to work till midnight. You can't get up and be to school at seven.

(13:24):
Right? Well, the world needs a lot more. Melanie's so sweet.

(13:29):
Thank you. When do we need a lot more villages like gossip?

(13:32):
Describe the inventory here for us.

(13:35):
We have an amazing inventory. We have two separate rooms. We have clothing and school supplies, coats, shoes, backpacks, um, sleeping bags, which we unfortunately have had to have kids use, um, little two man tents and, um, gloves, hats in this basic area here, everything stacked and labeled by size so they can get to it. All of these supplies you see right here is everything that's been donated within the last month or so. So we are now getting a stack washer and dryer in here. So the cause the electricians have been in here working. So it's been hard for me to get in here and get it put away. So it's a good mess because it means that we have lots of staff. So in this room, in here in this area, we have, um, lotion, shampoo, deodorants. So, um, toothpaste, toothbrushes, we have feminine products. Um, our canned food area. We don't have perishable items obviously for, for obvious reasons. Um, cereals, you know, mouthwash, dental floss, um, canned food items. We also have cleaning supplies. Also have just clothing. I've had a young lady that came in that just started to go to church and she needed some church clothes. So she came in and got some church clothes. Um,

(14:53):
It's labeled my, um, cute mom is retired. So she helps me come organize. She needs something to do. She went to Kohl's and got hangers donated so that all, everything's all the hanger, everything's on a hanger, everything size. So I want the kids to feel like they're truly shopping.

(15:11):
It's pretty clear in talking with Melanie Taylor that supporting students in their everyday needs and getting them to graduation is her passion. If you're not convinced, all you have to do is see her in action with students.

(15:28):
And I've told you this, my most important thing is to make sure we get you graduated and that you're happy and that you're contributing members of society and that we can help you get through. And we've had a hundred percent graduation rate with our McKinney Vento students for the last four years and you to get to contribute to that this year. And so I'm really proud of both of you go along with the, like where we would be without it. I definitely don't think I would be graduating or on the path that I am now to like making plans for my future. As I've mentioned with you before.

(16:06):
Yeah.

(16:06):
Girlfriend. Yeah. There's I can't have you ruin my numbers. So

(16:11):
Thanks for your time. And thanks for everything you're doing. We deeply appreciate the work. Melanie Taylor and others like her do putting their hearts and souls into helping students facing unique challenges in life. Thank you for tuning into the super cast. We invite you to subscribe using Apple, Google, or your favorite podcasting app. There's a new episode of the super cast available every Thursday. Remember education is the most important thing you will do today. We'll see out there [inaudible].

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