Three years ago, Carl Schneider started working for Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis, Tennessee. He soon learned that many of the little children walked two miles or more through unsafe neighborhoods to reach home every day. Concerned, he began to accompany these students on the walk back, so that the children had an adult to keep them from harm.
Over time, this precaution became routine for Schneider and he enjoyed the time outside the structure of the school to bond with the children. He thought no more of his efforts towards keeping the children safe than he did about any other part of his daily life.
But his community noticed.
As Principal Debra Broughton put it, there was always a need for safe commute for these students, but it wasn’t until Schneider joined the school that they realized what one powerful act of kindness could do to mobilize others to help.
Today, Schneider has been joined by some of the other teachers from Whitney Elementary in what has become an after school program. They escort nearly two hundred students home after classes every day and use the time outside the school walls to build a deeper relationship with the children.
It has proved to be a surprisingly effective tool for reaching out to children as well as their parents. When families see the thought put in by Schneider and his colleagues towards the well-being of their children, they are touched.
Not many would risk themselves or take the time to walk through rougher areas of Frayser, but Schneider is not easily deterred. He says that he never felt threatened by these parts of the town and has found that when he smiles and looks people in the eye, they tend to respond in kind.
Often, residents of Frayser witness Schneider laughing and chatting with the children as he chaperones them down the streets, Some take pictures and share it on social media, happy to promote his good work and encourage goodwill in their community.
It just so happened that Tabitha Tudy Jones’ Facebook post caught even more attention than other similar posts about this teacher and brought a local news station in to investigate.
The article published by 48 WAFF got the elementary school a lot of local attention, spreading awareness about Schneider and the needs of the children across the state.
But it was later, when the producers of The Ellen DeGeneres Show heard about the walk the children have to undertake and the hardships many of them live in that things really took off. The school was featured on one of Ellen’s episodes where she spoke to the students, arranged for rain gear for them, and handed over $50,000 in donation from Shutterfly to the school.
With the children and their daily walks in the limelight, Tempur-Pedic decided to reward the conscientious teachers of the school with mattresses. All the teachers who voluntarily spend their after work hours accompanying the kids home refused the gift and asked the company to give the mattresses to the children instead.
Tempur-Pedic rose to the occasion and donated 86 mattresses to the school for the children most in need of better sleeping arrangements. Many came from low income families and had to share beds with other family members. The gift of brand new mattresses went a long way towards getting these students better sleep.
These aids for the Elementary school kids only became possible because of Schneider’s selfless devotion towards his young students. It inspired the community and brought them national attention that helped improve the lives of the children in small and large ways.