Crossing the River

On a warm February morning, hundreds of students, parents, teachers, administrators, community members, and Little Bit staff and board members assembled at Annette Officer Elementary School in East St. Louis to celebrate a new service partnership between Little Bit and East St. Louis School District 189. The partnership marks the first for Little Bit across the Mississippi, a milestone 50 school partnerships in total, a homecoming for Little Bit President and CEO Miranda Walker Jones and a dream fulfilled for school and district leadership.

“Today we gather not just as a school, but as a compassionate community united to ensure that every child’s basic needs are met so they can thrive in their education journey. This is a momentous day,” said Officer Elementary Principal Darla Wall during the assembly. Echoing the excitement of the school, Sydney Stigge-Kaufman, Executive Director of Communications and Strategic Partnerships for the district, said, “Our young people depend on their schools to make a difference in their lives. Today, we celebrate a new addition to this supportive community – The Little Bit Foundation.”

Stigge-Kaufman says she has been advocating for Little Bit to cross the river for more than a decade, and under the leadership of Little Bit President and CEO Miranda Walker Jones, the dream has become reality.

“I remember all of us fighting back tears when we met to discuss the resources Little Bit could bring to the district,” says Walker Jones. “For me, it’s also intensely personal. I’m a product of East St. Louis, and I now have the opportunity to share my story with students and give back to the community that helped make me who I am today.”

Walker Jones says Little Bit programs and services will begin immediately at Officer Elementary and East St. Louis High School, with plans to expand within the district in the future. Services at Officer Elementary include support with everyday essentials, literacy programming, and health and nutrition. Students in East St. Louis High have access to STEM curriculum and Little Bit’s college and career readiness programming. East St. Louis High School students have already participated in Little Bit’s community-wide What’s Next College and Career Fair the past couple of years.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Little Bit Foundation to provide key resources that help us serve the whole child,” says East St. Louis School District 189 Superintendent Arthur Culver. “Our organizations have a shared belief that a child’s zip code does not determine their destiny. By providing high quality instruction, a nurturing school community filled with caring adults, and resources to fulfill a child’s physiological needs (such as shoes, uniforms, coats, food, and more), we can level the playing field. This collaborative effort is based on unlocking the full potential of each student.”

“We know this is the beginning of something great for this challenged – yet resilient and strong – community,” says Walker Jones. “We look forward to continuing to ramp up services and be a vital source of support to students, families, schools, and the area as long as needed.”

Watch more about the new partnership and celebration on February 9, which included student performances and coats and books distributed by Little Bit to all 300 students at Officer: