Teacher’s Program Cares for Students When School’s Out

This kind librarian’s compassion for her students is inspiring.

Jan 7, 2022
Teacher’s Program Cares for Students When School’s Out | This kind librarian’s compassion for her students is inspiring.

Turquoise LeJeune Parker is an elementary school teacher making a big impact on her students’ lives. She helps feed kids on school break, and has become a huge inspiration to her community and school district. 

Her program, “Mrs. Parker’s Professors’ Foodraiser”,  has become a huge success and has provided food to thousands of her students each year. She calls her students “little professors” and considers them family. Her dedication has provided food security for the families that are in need during the winter break when they do not have access to school meals.   

Parker works as a library teacher for Lakewood Elementary School in Durham, North Carolina. She was inspired to become an educator by her mother, who was an educator herself. Watching her mom’s dedication and passion for education inspired her to go into the education field. She prefers to call herself a social justice teacher.

How it all started
It all started six years ago when Parker received a message from the mother of one of her students. The mother explained to her that she did not have any more food to feed her family, and she could not afford to buy more food to feed her children during the winter break. The children relied on the meals provided to them at school. After receiving the call, she knew she needed to help. This compassionate teacher  went out to the store with her husband and bought groceries for the family of the woman who had called her. 

This experience made Parker think about the other students and their families who may be in need as well: “If one parent was going into the holiday break with no food in the house, we knew there must be others,” she told the Washington Post.

After asking for donations, she ended up receiving enough funds to buy holiday groceries for each of her twenty-two students. She wanted to continue providing food security to the families of her students, and the program continued to grow each year. 

A monumental success
According to the Washington Post, Parker raised one thousand dollars in her second year and by last year she had raised over  fifty-five thousand dollars. This year, she raised one hundred and six thousand dollars and had 70 volunteers. This was enough to help every child at 12 elementary schools in her school district, says Parker, noting that the majority of the pupils  qualify for free or low-cost school lunches. 

Parker told ABC11 that this represents a total of about 5,106 kids who took home grocery bags that would last them the whole two-week winter break. The Washington Post shared that these included pasta, peanut butter, oatmeal, fruits, vegetables, and more.

"It's a basic human right. We're not talking about raising money to buy people a vacation; this is food, a very, very basic thing," Parker told CNN. "We need to make sure we take care of our schools, because when we take care of our schools, we're taking care of our community," she added.

Parker is an inspiration to not only her students but also her community, and has received deserved  praise from her school district. She has also inspired her community to chip in and help the program, whether through fundraising, volunteering, or both.

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Emma is a freelance writer focusing on topics that will positively impact people's lives. She loves history, including the cultural artifacts that reflect it. With an undergraduate degree in English, she is currently working on her Master of Arts in Archaeology.