Pro Humanitate in Action: The Forsyth Backpack Program

7.24.2015 Article, Audio, General, Multimedia, Pro Humanitate, School News, Video

MA in Management students go beyond the typical orientation experience
By Stephanie Skordas, School of Business

New-student orientation can be a blur. Schedules. Classrooms. Textbooks. Navigating a new building. Connecting with classmates. Linking with professors and supportive staff. Onboarding 159 Master of Arts in Management (MA) students could be expected to be merely a methodical introduction to the business world.

But at Wake Forest University School of Business, we’re not just creating business professionals, but helping businesses create a better world.

So when the MA students filed into Broyhill Auditorium on their first Friday morning in Farrell Hall, ready to hear about a team project, most of them weren’t expecting to learn about a project that would touch their hearts and make a difference in how they planned to be a part of their new community.

The MA program invited leaders from the Forsyth Backpack Program to share some sobering data and information about hungry schoolchildren – students growing up practically in the shadow of Wake Forest University.

And for one MA student, William Hawks, it wasn’t something he was hearing about for the first time. He’d lived it.

“I grew up homeless. I grew up in foster care and in and out of shelters,” Hawks (MA ’16) said.  “I’m from Florida and to come up here to North Carolina and see good people doing good work, it’s very important to me.” (story continued below)


Forsyth Backpack Program
At Kimberley Park Elementary, a five-minute car ride or a two-mile walk from Wake Forest, 100 percent of the students receive free or reduced price breakfast and lunches. That’s about double the rate in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools of 53 percent.

“I think it’s great that Wake is having us do this program together in our first week,” said Mary Claire Martin (MA ’16). “We’re coming in, we’re excited, we’re learning about all the classes we’re going to be taking, and then they’re like ‘No, we’re going to stop and go back, and we’re going to give back to this community that we are a part of.’ “

Forsyth Backpack sends home four meals every weekend with schoolchildren – two breakfasts and two lunches – in a backpack.  The meals bridge the gap until they return to school on Monday. With their nutritional needs met, the students are better able to learn.

“Before the backpack program, we had children who were coming in hungry in the mornings, especially Monday mornings,” said Mia Parker, a parent coordinator at Kimberley Park, who now volunteers with Forsyth Backpack. She told the students how teachers would routinely wait to introduce new concepts on Wednesdays, giving the children two days of school meals to ease their hunger.

It shocked many of the students. An MA student born and raised in Forsyth County shared that she had been totally unaware of the issue – right in her own backyard.

“All of us are from many different backgrounds,” Hawks said. “Some people here don’t understand that feeling of not having food, that feeling of going to bed hungry and waking up hungry and then going to sleep again hungry.”

Heads, hearts and hands make light work
With three pallets of non-perishable food, more than 800 one-gallon plastic resealable bags and 104 cartons to build and fill, the MA students divided into teams to carry out their mission: to feed hungry schoolchildren.

They learned that packing cereal and juice boxes and other items requires a certain stacking order so that the plastic bags filled with four meals seal tightly with no crushing. They examined expiration dates and marked cartons accordingly.

They wrote notes of encouragement for each bag or shared personal experiences.

In the end, the MA students packed 3,328 meals that will feed students starting on the long Labor Day weekend.

Barbara Lentz, Forsyth Backpack Program co-founder and School of Law associate professor, says teaming with the MA program this way not only made it light work with so many hands, but also saved the program 70 cents on each bag packed. “That really adds up. Because 70 cents over more than 800 bags is $560. And that’s 112 more kids who could receive backpacks because of the help from the Wake Forest students today.”

“Pro Humanitate to me, means this,” Hawks said. “It means not talking about change and not thinking about change and not hashtagging change and not Googling change, but being active and making change. Because everyone can do it.  When you make it a lifestyle, you make it something you do every day, just like you breathe and put on your pants and shirts … we can all spread it like it’s a contagious epidemic or something.”

Check out the photo gallery from the day’s events!

Pro Humanitate in Action: The Forsyth Backpack Program