SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV)– Antoinette Singleton’s been walking through the front doors of STEAM at Dr. King Elementary School for 17 years. Every day is different, but it always starts the same way.
“So I actually pick up students who, for whatever reason, they either missed the bus or don’t have a bus, I just say listen, I’m on my way,” Singleton, a school social worker said.
Transportation is just one of the many issues plaguing students at Dr. King as they navigate a city that’s now ranked number one for child poverty in the nation according to new Census Bureau data.
The child poverty rate in Syracuse now sits at 48.4%, a decrease from 49.6% in 2015 but not enough to knock it out of the top stop.
Rochester trailed behind in second place for cities with a population of 100,000 and Buffalo in sixth.
Outside of school, students face a multitude of obstacles like homelessness and the rise in gun violence.
“Now it’s almost like every violent incident that takes place some child is affected by it at the school whether it be an uncle or a neighbor, it’s just gotten so personal now,” Singleton said.
Singleton said she wasn’t surprised by the number one rating but has seen an increase in gun violence in her 31 years as a school social worker.
“You know you say kids need to come to school ready to learn but if they’ve got all these things going on at home or if mom is safe or if grandma is okay they’re not ,they can’t, they can’t learn,”Antoinette Singleton, School Social Worker
As one of two school social workers, she often receives phone calls from families asking for help. The calls range from needing food for the weekend to needing a three-bedroom apartment.
“I’m glad they feel that they have that relationship that they can call and express that need,” Singleton said.
It’s relationships like that that Principal Alexander wants to keep creating with families to better help the entire family unit.
The staff at Dr. King is always going above and beyond their job titles to help provide. They feel grateful for community partnerships like Blessings in a Backpack which sends kids home with extra food for the weekend. Each student receives a free breakfast and lunch while at school.
Dr. King is also one of eight schools in the district to have a school-based health center offering physicals with a nurse practitioner, teeth cleanings with a dentist, and therapy with a mental health professional.
“We love our babies, we want the absolute best for them and we’re here. We’re gonna do what we can to help our families so we can help our babies,” Alexander said.
Helping to create change in the lives of students who can’t change their home life.