| Ryan Feyre
AGAWAM – The Agawam Lions Club, in collaboration with the Home Depot in Westfield, is conducting a “No-Cost Student Desk Program” to help Agawam students feel more comfortable learning in a remote/hybrid setting.
Back on Dec. 15, the Lions Club made a Facebook post asking hybrid and remote learners who need a dedicated workspace, to reserve their spot for a desk. According to Cheryl Terramagra, who is the assistant secretary of the club, the original plan was to make 40 desks for students, but after such a high demand within the first 12 hours of the Facebook post, the club had over 150 requests for desks. And as of press time, they have 180 in all.
“My first thought was, ‘can we do this,” said Terramagra. “And the response from the club was, ‘every kid is going to get a desk. I don’t care how many were requested, or how long it takes.’”
This project is a continuation of all the help the club has provided to the Agawam Public Schools district over the course of the entire 2020-2021 school year. In August, the Lions Club conducted a school supply drive. They made supply kits for students in need, and dropped off a “truck-full” of supplies to all eight schools in Agawam.
From there, the club decided to see how the school year would progress, and provide assistance based on how and where students would attend school. Since Agawam will be either remote or hybrid for the foreseeable future, Terramagra and company decided that providing a physical workspace would be a large help for students.
“Finding a horizontal surface in a household is harder than you think,” said Terramagra. “As a parent myself, desks were scarce online, August, September and they still are.”
The club sent emails to principals, teachers, adjustment counselors and PTO members, and put a Google Form on Facebook back in December. The requests started pouring in immediately after.
“We, in the history of the Agawam Lions Club, have never had so much engagement,” said Terramagra. “That’s always the pillar of our projects. You always look for financial support, business support, town leadership engagement, etc.”
According to Terramagra, there is no economic eligibility requirements for students, and there are no limits to how many students in a household can have a desk. Any student who wants one, can get one, free of charge.
“In my observation, when my children feel like they have some control and ownership, it just sets the foundation for a better experience,” said Terramagra.
While it is impossible to completely change the course of these unprecedented times, Terramagra said the Lions Club will continue to assist with the “tangible” aspects of student learning. Aside from students and parents, the club is also hearing from churches and providers for before and after school care who need desks.
“Students matter in our community,” said Terramagra. “To the extent that we can show that our students matter more than anything, and that we’re here, and we’re going to support them in any way we can … it’s more than a desk.”
Much of the funding for this project and the club in general is coming from a golf tournament fundraiser conducted by the late Jack Conroy, and his family. Money from this tournament is invested for the vocational endeavors of children, teens and special needs students.
“We are quite blessed, and we are quite fortunate to have so much financial support,” said Terramagra. “And in terms of the materials, the Home Depot in Westfield has worked tirelessly with us.”
The Home Depot in Westfield is providing monetary rewards and the delivery and pre-cutting of the wood or this specific project.
“They have been very supportive up until this time about giving us affordable materials,” said Terramagra.
As of press time, the club has three operating workshops, where the desks are being made by skilled woodworkers, machinists and cabinet makers within the club. They are currently sanding and clear-coating these desks, and storing them at the Big-E.
“Our hope is that it’s something the students will have for the long term,” said Terramagra. “It’s just somewhere to keep your stuff, and be productive and engaged.”
The club currently has three dates set for students to pick their desks up in the Agawam High School parking lot. Eighty desks will be distributed Jan. 9, 70 desks will be distributed Jan. 23 and the rest of the desks will be handed out on Feb. 6.
The club has also set up a GoFundMe page so residents can donate money for more supplies to help build more desks. Readers can find that page here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/nocost-student-desk-program?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=p_cf%20share-flow-1&fbclid=IwAR0A5Mn4SPVnQEz_vtxPeFE9CJ9zHhyL-aVqId5fULeMK-8morQLo9HCoY8.
While the club obtains more financial support, students who want a desk can sign up on a waiting list link. The waiting list can be found at the following site: https://firebasehostingproxy.page.link/198886819888/forms.gle/t8gGMCYsUbMDRub2A?fbclid=IwAR0e-dZeIrNl_13IYN5jiA6LdFqXTVGSWth6zYFShwqwchJTJ-bPgKg63aI&_imcp=1
Students who were on the waiting list will most likely receive their desks on that Feb. 6 date. Terramagra and company are reaching out to parents and students to situate a specific time for pickup.
“Our intention is to continue to invest in children and families,” said Terramagra. “Everybody needs a little bit of help sometimes, so it’s our endeavor to really keep our finger on the pulse with what’s really going on with our students and family.”