Former Duval teacher helping students living in poverty

By Joy Purdy - 5:30, 6:30 & 11 p.m. anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Jennifer Smith felt empowered to make a difference after she learned one of her students was being bullied because they didn't have a home.

She received a letter from a student that read in part, "I live in a hotel," and that, "Someone found out about it and they teased me saying, 'you don't have a house.'"

"There's a stigma attached to poverty, unfortunately. Being a teacher, you see firsthand what these student are going through," Smith said. "I've shed a lot of tears over the last few years."

LINK: The Giving Closet Project

Smith's tears have been for her students, and after serving 15 years in the public school system, she started the Giving Closet Project. It's an organization helping students in three different counties who live in poverty.

Children are helped with life's essentials like hygiene products and school supplies, so they can better focus on their studies.

Smith says the Giving Closet Project is just the beginning of what public schools across the nation need desperately: hope.

"It's time to step out of this bubble and expose what's really happening in our schools," Smith said.

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