AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT)- On Friday, Hamlet Elementary School recognized their community heroes and sheroes.

Among the community heroes was Randy Tonche. Throughout the school year, Tonche mentored students and put on coat and school supply drives. Most recently, Tonche paid off the remaining lunch balances for all students, which totaled around $1,400.

“I remember being a little kid in the same situation,” said Tonche. “Going through the lunch line and the lunch lady asking ‘hey, do you have your money to pay today’. I didn’t understand that there’s times you can’t have a meal, but you can have a sack lunch. So, there’s a big difference between a hot meal and a cold meal.”

After finding out about the lunch balances from speaking with first-grade teacher Jan Littlejohn, Tonche was willing to help because he believes kids should not have to go without a meal, and he understands that some parents are facing financial hardships.

“It helps parents to alleviate stress because it’s the end of the year and they don’t have those worries anymore,” said Littlejohn. “Their balances are all paid off. The kids don’t really understand it, but they do appreciate the support. It’s just so great to have that support from the community.”

Littlejohn continued, “It helps them when they can just show up and just be ready to learn and they don’t have to worry about anything or if they don’t have a jacket. They just show up and they can go to recess with no worries, and it just helps kids to just be happy and healthy and ready to learn at school.”

Kitchen helper Sonya Flores said they are grateful that Tonche helped their babies.

“I know the students and the parents also are grateful for that,” said Flores. ” It means that they’re not singled out. Which I don’t like to do, much less have them being denied food because they are in the negatives.”

Flores shared that the cafeteria staff tries to advocate for students and make sure they have quality food to eat.

“I have them write down suggestions of what they would like to see on the menu and turned it in to the higher-ups,” explained Flores. “I don’t want to see the babies go hungry because if they don’t eat properly, they can’t function properly in school.”

Tonche shared that he believes it’s essential for the community to come together and support kids.

“I think we need to invest in our future, said Tonche. “Kids need leaders, they need good role models, they need strong role models in their lives. If that’s what we can do, then that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to keep doing that moving forward.

Throughout the year Hamlet has worked to open their doors to the community in an effort to show the hard work being done in their hallways and introduce students to different experiences and mentorship opportunities.

Hamlet Elementary School Principal R.J. Soleyjacks said that having community engagement in schools allows students to dream appropriately. Solejacks shared that in his first year at Hamlet, students weren’t sure what they wanted to do as they got older and he wanted to provide a solution to that problem.

“The fastest solution I could find was to get those professionals in our school,” said Soleyjacks. “It just continued to grow and grow and grow and grow and we’ve got over 15 Community Partners this school year that consistently come through our halls, mentor students do great things like Randy has done for our campus.”

According to Soleyjacks at the end of the year, they work to alleviate some of the stress parents may experience as the school year ends and focus on healing families.

“Let’s continue to be a bridge to be able to heal your families from the inside out,” said Soleyjacks. “It also allows our parents to come into the building and see something different as well.”

Soleyjacks continued, “I think there are no negatives, because it also allows our community also to appropriately go back out and report what’s going on in school and with big smiling faces and saying, man our teachers are working hard.”

Tonche shared that he’s grateful to be part of the Hamlet family and be able to show kindness.

“Being able to tell these kids show them kindness, said Tonche. “Always encourage others, be that role model, be that leader for others, but at the same time, always believe in yourself in your ability to do great things.”

The full list of Hamlet Heroes and Sheroes include:

  • Amarillo Education Foundation
  • Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
  • Amarillo Museum of Art
  • Amarillo National Bank
  • Brittany Sullivan
  • Brooks Boyett
  • Disco Inc.
  • Education Credit Union
  • 101 Elite Men
  • Golden Gate Nirtuary
  • Hillary Gillespie
  • Hope Choice
  • Iconic Graphics
  • Irene Jones
  • Justin Thompson
  • Kizzy Reed
  • Leaders Readers Network
  • Mitzi Head
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
  • Palo Duro High School Athletics
  • Randy Tonche
  • St. Andrews
  • Storybridge
  • Tatiana Frausto
  • United Supermarkets
  • Zoom Zoom Zayden

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