Sunshine High School is an alternative learning center for teens in grades 9-12 that allows them to complete high school online and receive a diploma, not a GED. Orange County School District partners with the Accelerated Learning Solutions Charter School organization to provide an alternative pathway to achieving a diploma. Many of the enrolled students are interested in a fast-track to graduation, individualized education tracks, or a flexible learning schedule.
When students first arrive at Sunshine, they have already overcome many barriers to achieving their education. This can range from teenage pregnancy to falling through the public education gap. At enrollment, the average reading level of a student is a fourth or fifth-grade reading level. At graduation, the average reading level increases to at least a ninth-grade reading level. However, there are only so many barriers that can be overcome in education.
In addition to their academic barriers, many students have domestic obstacles that they’re facing. At Sunshine, classes are divided into two sessions: morning session and afternoon session. The flexibility is strategic so that students can work and attend classes, which is almost mandatory for most of these students to support their families. Because of the building arrangements, there is no way for the school to provide hot meals and students were unable to participate in the National School Lunch Program.
With all of the obstacles their students face daily, Sunshine High School joined the School Market program pilot to provide food resources for their students. The Phoenix Market, named after their school mascot, opened in October. Since opening, the market has distributed over 600 pounds of shelf-stable meal items and snacks and served an average of 80 students each day.
Furthermore, the School Market program is not only designed to provide shelf-stable items to students, but to also provide fresh, nutritious produce which many are unable to afford. The Phoenix Market hosted their first Fresh Market distribution earlier this month. Second Harvest provided 3 pallets of bagged produce, which included sweet potatoes, cucumbers, and mixed bags of apples and pears. Over 125 teens participated in taking produce home with them for their families.
Many students were overwhelmed with having access to fresh produce. One young mother was ecstatic about the sweet potatoes because she could cook them and freeze them for baby food.
Another young woman was waiting for her ride after classes and was telling us how her car had broken down the weekend prior and expressed concern about making ends meet this month. That was when staff told her about The Phoenix Market and that food would be available for students all month long. The student was able to pick-up food for her family and fresh produce during the Fresh Market. Overwhelmed with the support, the student called her mother and shared the news that she was going to be able to bring home dinner and that her mother “didn’t need to worry about scraping food together this week.”