SPENCER, Okla. (KFOR) – Faculty and staff at schools in Spencer say they desperately need support and encouragement from the community, and that their students are at great risk if they don’t get more help. Thursday evening, the community proved they had their back.

Hope United held a Spencer Pride CAFE at Rogers Middle School, with the goal of creating an infrastructure of support for three schools located in Spencer, going beyond basic donations to building relationships. CAFE stands for community action for education.

“Right now, I would tell you that many of our students are just surviving,” said Hope United Executive Director Dr. Lee Roland.

But his question is how can the community help them thrive.

Thursday evening, he and his team brought local churches, businesses and non-profits together to hear firsthand how they can serve Spencer Elementary School, Rogers Middle School, and Star Spencer High School.

Spencer Elementary Admin Intern Destiny Murray expressed to the audience their need to give students “experiences” such as college field trips, outings to the zoo, school dances and graduation ceremonies. She also requested ways to incentivize students to have good attendance and behave well, such as with food rewards.

An event attendee promised to give the school the popcorn machine Murray asked for.

“Popcorn is usually associated with the movie theater,” she explained. “So essentially, you’re bringing in another experience into the school and it makes kids excited to be at school on time. It makes them excited to show up and have good behavior. It makes them excited to be able to have homemade popcorn in the classroom while they’re working on their work.”

Rogers Middle School Instructional Coach Kari Hamilton wants to give their teachers gift cards of appreciation. She also shared how those in attendance could help with student wellness.

“I was really happy because we’ve already had some people talk about being able to help us fund our Zen room, which will help our students regulate their emotions, and our garden, which will teach our students how to grow their own food,” she joyously reported.

Three students from Star Spencer High School sat on stage and shared personal and heartbreaking stories of witnessing suicide and losing parents at young ages. Their assistant principal Rodney Cox said he’s grateful their voices were heard.

“I had two people that are trauma counselors themselves that happened to be here that are vowing to at least just come to the school and start to have more conversations to see what they’re going through and how they’re going to be able to help,” he shared with KFOR.

Dr. Roland tells us he’s feeling optimistic.

“What I wanted to do is inspire and I want to ignite some hope,” he said. “So, I think we did that.”

Roland said the conversations that started at the CAFE launch will continue, with the churches, businesses, and non-profits plugging into each school’s liaison, or “school champion,” who will then help feed promised resources into the schools.