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North Trail’s ‘guardian angel’ looks for new recruits

For the man who introduces himself as North Trail Elementary School’s guardian angel, it was socks that really helped drive home the kinds of needs he was helping meet.

It was last fall, and the request was just the second to come in to the anonymous email address the guardian angel had set up for staff at the school. One of the students had just one pair of socks in his entire wardrobe, and his teacher wanted to know if maybe the guardian angel could do something to help.

“It gave me a whole new perspective on the fact that there is a lack of basic needs in some cases,” the guardian angel said.

The request was one of 106 submitted last year to the guardian angel, a North Trail parent whose identity is known only to principal Steven Geis, and one of 105 that was fulfilled. The only request the guardian angel did not grant was for a physically large item that proved logistically impossible to provide. All told, the guardian angel spent more than $10,000 last year on winter coats, grocery gift cards, even a glove and ball for a student who loved baseball but was never able to play.

That’s more than twice what the guardian angel expected to spend when the school year started, but there was never any hesitation as the requests continued to come in.

“We hit what I thought we were going to hit probably in December of last year,” the guardian angel said. “It was a fantastic moment.”

The inspiration for the guardian angel program stretches back years, to the donor’s own childhood. He had what he called “humble beginnings,” but even when money tight his parents were always willing to buy him a book if he asked for one. He spent six months last year trying to come up with a way to give other kids a similar experience.

The system is simple. Teachers and other staff members see needs at North Trail. They send an email. Then, a day or so later, the requested item shows up, delivered by courier.

It works, the guardian angel said, because teachers provide an excellent filtering system. They see the needs that exist. But until last year they didn’t have a way to address them. Now that they can, they see students who are much more comfortable at school.

English as Second Language teacher Teresa Dupont had one student last year who walked to school and was frequently late. It turned out, he needed an alarm clock. So, the guardian angel got him one. Then, he showed up to school soaking wet. So, they got him an umbrella. When winter came, he got snow pants.”

“I can see in him, he has a better sense of belonging,” Dupont said.

Those are the kinds of stories the guardian angel likes to hear.

“It’s heartwarming with the responses we’ve gotten back from the kids,” he said. “Some of them have sent us notes back.

“The biggest benefit for anyone stepping forward is just the rewards that come from the program…. You know you’re making a difference in a child’s life.”

Now in the second year of his own giving, North Trail’s guardian angel hopes to inspire others to follow his example. He’s created another email address — — to recruit individuals or groups willing to adopt other Farmington schools in similar fashion. He can provide help in the background, but he’d like other people to step forward and embrace a school like he and his family have with North Trail.

“We’re willing to do whatever it takes to get the most successful outcome,” he said. “If people are willing to step up and take care of a school, we’ll set them up with an anonymous email address and all the contacts.

“I want to get our whole community helping our schools, and with a partnership like this we can create the strongest community, strongest schools, strongest learners in the country.”

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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