ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — With hundreds of students experiencing homelessness within Round Rock ISD, a new student-led nonprofit is working to aid those students with access to food, clothing, self-care kits and other essential resources.
Jishnu Saani and Andrew Vu are students at Round Rock High School and two of the founders behind Project Red. The organization initially began in the aftermath of the winter storms earlier this year, launched as a food drive and warm winter clothes collection.
From there, the group connected with Round Rock ISD’s Families in Transition (FiT), a district-led program that helps district students and their families navigate homelessness. Old Town, Teravista and Fern Bluff elementary schools supported the organization’s food drive efforts.
It was those collaborations, Vu and Saani each said, that helped them realize they wanted to expand their efforts beyond the immediate aftermath of the winter storm.
“We saw this as an opportunity to connect with FiT and to base our project with FiT as well to help these families out — not just because of a winter storm, but because of a bigger, encompassing problem of homelessness in the schools,” Vu said.
As of November, RRISD officials said more than 700 district students are classified as experiencing homelessness. That classification includes students living in the foster care system, on the streets, with family or friends or living in their vehicle, Saani and Vu said.
With this comes extreme sensitivity, each said, a situation causing an added struggle for students on top of their academics.
“Helping homeless kids is a very difficult task; it’s a sensitive issue,” Saani said, adding: “Kids have so much potential in making an impact in their community. And we really like to aspire to show that in our own organization.”
Addressing that sensitivity comes with being mindful of collecting resources that both benefit students, while not outing their financial status. That includes things like Nike-branded backpacks or Converses that don’t outwardly speak to the student’s financial situation.
Alongside its food and clothing drives, donations to Project Red help fund initiatives like the organization’s first aid and hygiene kits for students. They’ve also worked to purchase and distribute gift cards individuals can use to purchase necessities.
Both Saani and Vu said their hope is they can expand Project Red’s network with more volunteers to spearhead community projects down the road.
“We’re not just trying to help these disadvantaged kids: We’re also trying to make sure that our volunteers get a clearer understanding of the problem they’re facing or that they’re trying to tackle at hand,” Saani said. “It’s not just the people we’re helping, it’s also the volunteers and making sure they get that experience, they get that awareness and that our next generation is more informed when dealing with such issues.”
More information on Project Red is available online and on Instagram. For donations or volunteer opportunities, email email@example.com.