Ask Lucas D’Angelo about his recent morning routines that he and his family follow to get to school.
“First I put on my water boots,” says the West Elementary School fourth-grader. “Then I walk on the wooden…” he searches for the right word, “…boardwalk that my papa built.” He explains they then ride in the golf cart on higher ground to the truck parked in a neighbor’s yard where he and his second-grade sister then change into their tennis shoes on their way to school.
Despite being flooded in their home, Thomas and Annette D’Angelo didn’t let that stop them from getting their grandchildren to school. Lucas says he “loves school” and doesn’t want to miss a day. “We know that students cannot learn if they are not in school,” said Ashley Coone, a consultant for The Patterson Foundation that supports the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. “School attendance is one of the five pillars of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading along with school readiness, summer learning, family engagement, and health.”
Lucas was one of more than 1,400 DeSoto County School District elementary students who participated in the SCGLR 2018 Attendance Awareness Poster Contest. The theme, Strive for Less Than Five, encouraged students to create posters around the importance of attending school every day.
Coone says he and his family are a poster family for the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s “Strive for Less than Five Days Absent” campaign in DeSoto and surrounding counties. “It’s wonderful to hear about students like Lucas applying this lesson in real life,” Coone added.
Just when the D’Angelo’s had their routine down, the river rose to 14 feet, spilling over the 11-foot bank. With the water up to their ankles, they didn’t make it to school two days the first week of school as their boat was inoperable. Over the weekend, a neighbor loaned them one, and they have been able to boat to school. Now, in addition to donning water boots, the kids pull bright orange life vests over their heads in their journey to school.
The message his family is sending him is quite clear to Lucas, and it’s about more than school.
“They want me to learn, to get a good job,” he said. “They love me.”