Teacher Lisa Hantman has reason to be proud
“I want her to maintain her idealism,” said the mother of 9-year-old Anya Gizis, one of 19 students who described the class's NID project on homelessness to a recently convened gathering of statewide professionals who work with the homeless population.
“I want her to see the power of one person to make a difference,” said Bhana Gizis.
Lisa Hantman’s former students, now in fourth grade at McCall Elementary School, were the highlight of the Pennsylvania Homeless Children’s Initiative conference held in King of Prussia at the end of April. According to event organizer Lynda Becker, “Someone told me, ‘This is the best part of the conference.’” She was not surprised.
“Kids can really make an impact. They took a stand, increasing citizenship and awareness around the issue,” she said.
The goal of the Homeless Children's Initiative is to inform local school districts of their responsibilities to homeless children and youth and to increase awareness about their needs. Ms. Hantman's students demonstrated that 3rd graders can play a significant role in addressing these goals.
Her students’ yearlong research into the causes and effects of homelessness last year culminated with their presenting findings to members of Philadelphia City Council. Council members were particularly struck by the students' message when they learned that one of the members of the class was himself homeless.
Among their research findings were these facts:
- Children and families make up about 1/3 of the shelter population on any given night.
- Among the causes of homelessness are city overcrowding, evictions and domestic violence.
- 21% of those without homes have moved 5 or more times in their lives.
- The typical person who is without a home today is a child.
Standing under crystal chandeliers in the Radisson Hotel's Grand Ballroom, nine-year-old Chloe Hart demonstrated an awareness of the problem's immensity when responding to the question: "Do you have hope that things are going to change regarding the problem of homelessness in Philadelphia as a result of your class's project?"
Chloe's answer: "A little bit."
Says Ms. Hantman: " I am truly pleased to know such thoughtful, young citizens. They are the hope!"