Pool goes beyond curriculum, teaches the value of giving

Story by Kristen Shepard
Video by Cassidy Pickrell

Five years ago when Health Science Technology (HST) Teacher Ray Pool realized Coppell families were struggling to meet ends, he started the Coppell Food Pantry, which is a confidential service that provides food to families who are struggling to make ends meet. On top of teaching, coordinating the HST programs, a parenting, Pool and his students go out of their way to get food into the hands of struggling families.

The pantry itself began by accumulating canned foods from fundraisers across campus. Organizations like the National Honor Society and the Public Service Academy donated cans towards Pool’s mission, and continue to do so. Five years later, the pantry is still active, and Pool’s classroom has developed what looks like a small grocery store aisle filled with canned foods.

“We stay after school or on Saturdays to get these families food,” said Pool. “We work hard to accommodate their schedules. [Unemployment] can happen to anyone, no one is immune and it is worth going out of the way to help these families.”

The pantry contains an assortment of foods, from canned vegetables to soups to cereals to pastas. The most popular items are canned meats and dry pastas, but anything that can make a meal is appreciated.

“We service an average of two to three families a week, sometimes as many as seven,” Pool said. “On Saturdays or weekday evenings we open up the pantry and let the families take what they need.”

Families in need either contact Pool directly, or are forwarded to Pool by teachers and guidance counselors. From here, Pool makes the arrangements to help the families out as much as they need, whether it is one time or weekly or monthly. Families can stop by at almost anytime, as Pool makes a special effort to accommodate busy schedules.

“We might not have had a need for a food pantry in the past years,” CHS Principal Mike Jasso said. “The reality today is that we’ve got a growing number of families that struggle. That does not mean anything other than that is the reality.”

Pool is not alone in his can collecting efforts. He attributes much of his success to his students, who help him stock shelves, sort cans and replenish the inventory. HST junior Kevin Songco helped with the pantry one Saturday with his family.

“People sometimes think that Coppell does not have poverty or that we do not need a food pantry,” Songco said. “This just proves that we’re wrong, people just are not always obvious about their need.”

Not only is the food pantry continuing, Pool is working to expand the pantry to other Coppell ISD  campuses in an organization that will be called Coppell Cares.

Pool’s work with the Coppell Food Pantry have not gone unrecognized. At the January staff meeting, Pool was awarded the February Teacher of the Month.

“One of the greatest things about Ray Pool is his heart,” Jasso said.  “He is one of the most kind-hearted and genuine individuals that I know and I count him as a friend. Not only does he do a good job of being a teacher, he embodies characteristics and morals that make him so great.”

Pool’s students share the excitement over his award, and think that the recognition is well deserved. His students see Pool as a leader inside and outside of the classroom, and from Pool, these students see the importance of local charity.

“Mr. Pool is a really cool teacher and person,” Songco said. “He does not have to do the food pantry, but it is something he does because he cares and we are happy to help him out.”