A New Jersey elementary school principal has made it his mission to be an exemplar of kindness to his students – even off of school grounds.
Camden Elementary School in Newark runs on the motto, “We Care.” That’s why its principal, Sam Garrison, started a program called Camden Cares.
Camden Cares classrooms are known to stock extra necessities such as food and clothing, in addition to a washer and dryer, for families who fall on hard times.
“We believe that a community will make a school. So if we take care of our community, in return the community will take care of the school,” Garrison said.
Over the summer, Garrison and his staff decided to walk around the community and knock on the doors of his students for a friendly check in.
During a routine walk a few weeks ago the group discovered that two students were living in a home that had been completely burned down. The Rojas family had lost everything inside.
“It’s going to be hard for these kids to come to school when they just had a fire,” Garrison said – but he recalled that the Rutgers University Police Department had held a backpack drive earlier in the summer.
In a powerful act of collaboration, officers from the Rutgers University Police Department gathered the leftover backpacks and personally delivered them to the school, where they filled them with supplies from a Camden Cares classroom.
“I think there’s certain things that you do in life that you’ll always remember,” said Rutgers University Police Chief Carmelo Huertas.
A few days before school began Tuesday, principal Garrison, along with two teachers, brought the Rojas family new backpacks to the children’s surprise.
Lady Rojas, the boy’s mother, was speechless watching her son excitedly examine his new school supplies.
“She feels grateful for all the things the children needed – the backpacks, the uniforms. She’s grateful for the school and for the Rutgers Police Department for helping out,” a friend translated.
Garrison says he plans to continue checking in on families throughout the school year through the Camden Cares program. He also plans to keep the Camden Cares classroom stocked at all times for families who need things in a pinch.
“I think that’s what it’s about. This idea of ‘let’s create good,’ and ‘let’s be proactive in doing good’ and then good will result,” Garrison said.
“You hope that (students) take that experience and be able to pass that on and pay it forward,” Huertas said.