DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Being seen is top of mind for a nine-year-old fifth grade student attending Burton Magnet Elementary School. He remembers what it felt like some years back not having a warm coat and how his teachers came to the rescue.
"When they know they come to school they know people care about them and not walk past them," said the male student. "It's really helpful even though they have to come together to get the money."
Burton Elementary is a Title 1 school, which means most of the students attending get free or reduced lunch. They're facing plenty of other barriers including needing a coat to brave the cold. The mission is to educate the whole child and sometimes not having a warm coat impacts learning.
"We saw students getting off the bus with thin jackets on so we saw that they needed heavier coats," said Principal Tiffany Boss. "A student that comes in without a coat has the potential to be in the red zone. They're not feeling good about themselves and not feeling good about their day, but, if they have a coat and are warm at bus stop when they get to school, we're here to greet them and they're ready to start their day."
According to staff, community partners have come together the past eight years to ensure every student in the school receives a new coat. There is a teachers conference room turned makeshift closet where coats are distributed almost as fast as they come in.
"It gives the sense that someone here cares about them. They come to school not feeling ashamed or embarrassed about what they might have. Also have students who lose coat and parents may not have the money go buy additional coat," said Keith Flynn, assistant principal.
Educators say this is about leveling the playing field for all students at this magnet school. It's within a half mile walking radius of McDougald Terrace. Staffers constantly work to make sure social and emotional needs are met.
"I was cared for. I didn't have to go out and buy a coat when I already had one here," said the student.