EPIC Charter Schools Launch Suitcase Project To Help Students Experiencing Homelessness


Tuesday, October 25th 2022, 8:40 pm



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An EPIC Charter School Parent who struggled with homelessness for years is now helping students in her shoes. 

Trista Dawson told News 9 this all started when she was at a school event with her kids. Through personal experience she was able to pinpoint unhoused students and was moved to help them. 

“I immediately recognized a few of our homeless students and it just took me back and just got me curious to see just how many,” said Dawson. 

How many students, just like her, are going to school and experiencing homelessness? 

“Approximately one out of every 20 students at EPIC Charter Schools on average that are experiencing homelessness,” said Bart Banfield, the EPIC Charter School Superintendent. 

“They just started talking numbers and I just felt like it was a crisis and I wanted to do something. At that point it reached my heart and I felt like it was time to start doing something,” said Dawson. 

A connection just personal enough to spark a statewide project for EPIC Charter School students. 

Through November the school will be collecting basic donations and packing them in suitcases for students. 

“All of my stuff was in grocery sacks and I traveled from place to place, couch to couch and so I just remember that embarrassment and just that everyone knows,” she said. 

“Part of our stories were the same. For me, my items were carried in a black trashcan every time I went in and out of foster care,” said Marti Duggan, the At-Risk Student Program Coordinator for Epic Charter Schools. 

Duggan works with at risk EPIC students around the state and said EPIC students are representative of Oklahoma students. 

“We have families that are in situational homelessness, there has been a loss of a job, disability, illness. We have families that changed living situations due to divorce or death in the family and are experiencing homelessness,” she said. 

Both of their lived experiences give them unique insight into what these students are going through. 

“For a suitcase, it does keep dignity it is not identifying you are immediately experiencing homelessness, poverty or hardship,” said Duggan. 

“I just want to be able to give them dignity and give these students just a little bit of hope and say ‘hey we support you,’” said Dawson. 

The goal is to fill more than 1,000 suitcases for EPIC students. They will hand them out before Christmas break. 

Those that want to donate can drop off hygiene items, gloves, jackets, socks, travel blankets age-appropriate Christmas gifts and carry-on suitcases at each of their drop off locations. 

  1. Oklahoma City Office: 1900 NW Expressway St, Oklahoma City, OK 73118 
  2. Floor R3 


  1. Tulsa Office: 3840 S. 103rd East Ave., Tulsa OK 74146 
  2. Floor 2 


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