Principal Scott Joseph shares about Natalie

young woman carrying books

As the Principal of a high school, Hand2Hand means more than just feeding hungry students, it is also  a means to understand what a student is wrestling with on the inside.

High school students are finding their way in this journey of life and meeting a basic need is a necessary first step, but Hand2Hand is also  a tool for a relationship to be built between our staff and students.

Natalie, a 9th grade girl, moved into our school from a neighboring district. We didn’t know much about her but we knew that life at home was not an easy one. Fitting into a new school was hard and she quickly tried to find her way. Natalie’s counselor connected her with Hand2Hand and she reluctantly accepted. Not long after, it was Christmas time and the Hand2Hand coordinator put out some small gifts for all of those who were signed up for Hand2Hand. In the last hour of the day before Christmas break, the gifts were stolen! The administration scrambled to watch video and try to get the gifts back prior to the students leaving for Christmas break. The video showed Natalie taking the gifts. Administration pulled Natalie out of class, retrieved the gifts, and began establishing a relationship with her. That day, Natalie received more that a Hand2Hand backpack. She received grace.

As a couple of staff members cared for her, showed grace, and asked more questions about what her home life was like and why she needed to take the gifts, it was the beginning of a new road for Natalie.

Natalie began to trust a couple of adults in the building and then was connected with a program that continued to help her to develop.  She began to understand what the words love and acceptance meant. Staff members began to understand her more, and she began to trust.  Natalie wrote a letter that I still have today.  That letter was a heart felt apology and thank you.  I’ve been able to watch Natalie grow, and she is now a senior, graduating from our high school, and is planning to attend Grand Valley State University. Her future is bright, and I’m so proud of who she has become, and I’m excited to see her excel in life.  Without Hand2Hand, we would not ever have truly been able to connect with Natalie on the level we did that day.

When we work together and provide for a need but also do it with love, we are able to  show kids that there are those who care for them. Together, we can truly change their world.

Who would have thought a backpack could do all of that?

Scott Joseph
Principal |Byron Center High School