Community Impact Education Pathway Faces of Success: MNPS Principals Mathew Portell and Alison McMahan
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Faces of Success: MNPS Principals Mathew Portell and Alison McMahan

Nashville students are out for summer vacation. However, work continues for school leaders who are busy preparing for the next school year. They are determined to meet the growing and continual needs of students at local schools like Fall-Hamilton Elementary School.

“Some of our children begin the year in extremely vulnerable situations,” said Fall-Hamilton Elementary School Principal Mathew Portell. “It truly takes a village to address their needs.”

Needs of Fall-Hamilton Elementary School students can range from a lack of school supplies to emotional support on the first day of school.

“It’s amazing how an extra hand can encourage a 5-year-old child who is leaving their parents for the first time on the first day of school,” said Portell.

Last year, 9,635 students at nine different Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, 18 United Way Family Resource Centers and 36 partner agencies received an extra helping hand through Stuff the Bus Days of Action. United Way of Metropolitan Nashville’s largest volunteer opportunity of the year brought together 960 through five unique opportunities (Collection Drives, Corporate Challenge, Field Day, Sort-a-Thon and Backpack Delivery). All of them are designed to provide backpacks full of school supplies to at-risk Nashville children. This partnership and generosity eased the stress of teachers and school leaders like Portell.                        

“I was a brand new principal in 2015, and Stuff the Bus made the transition extremely smooth. Everything was positive, and my first day of school as a principal was the smoothest first day I have ever experienced,” said Portell.

Stuff the Bus has created positive first day experiences for thousands of at-risk Nashville students and teachers by furnishing them with backpacks and school supplies. The supplies help students begin the year with confidence and dignity. They also allow teachers at benefiting schools to begin the year ready to teach on the first day. This outpouring of support demonstrates a caring community’s commitment to the educational needs of Nashville’s vulnerable children.     

“In this city, everybody is focused on doing what is best for our kids,” said Tusculum Elementary School Principal Alison McMahan. “Through Stuff the Bus, each student begins the year on equal footing; nobody has to worry about markers, crayons or additional supplies. Our kids feel safe, and it shows them that the city is engaged and wants them to succeed.”

Both Portell and McMahan agree that Stuff the Bus is critical to the success of their students again this fall. They can’t imagine the first day without it.

“Stuff the Bus is the piece that we must have for a successful school year. Corporate and community partnerships are what make us successful as an institution,” said Portell.

"When you walk in on the first day and see all of the people in their United Way shirts ready to help students in any way they can, it’s an overwhelming sight,” said McMahan. “Anybody who is curious or wants to get involved in Stuff the Bus should test the waters; you won’t be dissatisfied, and you will have a great day.”

Click here for more information on how you can get involved in Stuff the Bus Days of Action!

To learn more about United Way's Education programs, click here.
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