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'Care to Learn' Expands To Include OTC

A pair of glasses. A pre-paid gas card. A session with a counselor. Typically, these items aren’t thought of as terribly pricey. Yet, to a college kid, they can mean the difference between making it through the semester or dropping out. KSMU’s Jennifer Moore reports on how a local charitable organization has now expanded its scope to include so-called “big kids.”

As students grabbed a snack from the vending machine or dried off from the rain, OTC officials and local businessman Doug Pitt announced that the Care to Learn initiative has now set foot on a college campus.

Pitt, the founder of the year-and-a-half old Care to Learn Fund, says the program will allow OTC to meet the urgent needs of students in the areas of health, hunger and hygiene. And those needs, he said, are many.

Care to Learn is already active in meeting the needs of low income children in Springfield, Nixa, Ozark, and Bolivar. OTC is the first college to step on board with the charity.

Pitt said the idea behind the overall effort is to restore hope to students who have been stripped of their self-worth due to poverty. It’s for the student who hasn’t had a shower in three days because his water has been shut off due to unpaid utility bills. Or the young single mom struggling to earn her degree while in desperate need of emotional counseling.

One faculty member at OTC who has seen how poverty detrimentally affects students firsthand is Caron Daugherty. She’s the director of the honors program at OTC, and a member of the English faculty. She says it’s not unusual for faculty to have a student who can’t pay for gas to get to school or who’s having trouble finding a place to live. One young woman in her Intro to Poetry class last semester sticks out in her mind.

The student had a one-year-old child and showed up to class crying because she had just been evicted. She said another student couldn’t see the board from where he sat, and simply needed glasses he couldn’t afford. The Care to Learn Fund will address the emergency needs of students like these, she added.

Pitt said he hasn’t placed a figure on how much money Care to Learn will send in OTC’s direction, because the college is first going to gather information on just how much is required to meet its students’ needs.

He said the goal is a simple, yet lofty one: to never turn away a child or student in need.

For more on the Care to Learn Fund, or to donate, you can visit the non-profit’s website: www.caretolearnfund.com.

For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Moore.