CASSELTON, N.D. — Central Cass School has started a program to help K-12 students who have trouble getting the food and other necessities they need to succeed.
Their motto is simple: "See a need, fill a need."
The Central Cass Treehouse has everything from shoes and shampoo to mental health help for students. The school built the service from the ground up after some parents in the district started hearing stories of students coming to school without basic needs being met at home.
"This fall we started hearing some really heartbreaking stories," said founder and president of the program, Heidi Domier. "The amazing staff here at Central Cass was meeting those needs out of their own finances."
A board of parents, staff, and technology experts worked together to find a way to launch the project out of a small room in the Central Cass School building.
"(We have) everything from snacks to ready-made food items, meeting the food insecurity that the school is experiencing, especially in the mornings," Domier explains. "Students are coming to school and maybe missing free and reduced breakfast."
To use the resources of the program, a student simply works with a counselor or teacher privately. They are then allowed into the room and can take home what they need.
The results so far have been surprising, staff said, with 78 pounds of supplies going into the lockers and then the homes of students each month.
"The point of what we were trying to do, (is to) make it easy for kids to tell us what they need without feeling like they're different from anybody else and without anyone finding out about it," said Nikki Wixo, the academic dean for Central Cass Elementary. "That is huge for high school kids and we just want to do what we can to make it easier for them."
The Central Cass Treehouse Project will transform in a few weeks when a new app where students will be able to order items will go live on phones and a school-issued MacBook.
What's more, the new app will allow students to contact school counselors, alerting them of a student who may need attention for mental health concerns.
"That can be anonymous too, which is really cool, because you don't have to feel pressure that you're not doing the right thing, even though you are," said Central Cass student Emma Bastian. "I think (it's) awesome that you can get the help for that student without having to confront the student or teacher."
The Great Plains Food Bank, as well as area businesses and families, contribute to the Central Cass Treehouse. Those interested in learning more about the program can visit its Facebook page.