Counselor at Jackie Mae Townsell Elementary, Michelle Grady has been a great supporter of the Irving Schools Foundation for years. In particular, Michelle has helped grow the Food for Thought Program. One of the 5th graders at Townsell has said, “Ms. Grady means a lot to me. She is a good counselor and helps when I need it. She is really like a buddy and someone I can talk to and tell EVERYTHING.”
Michelle Grady is originally from Houston, Texas, where her mother instilled in her the importance of education and giving back. Michelle always knew that she wanted to be an educator. After attending Collin Community College and Texas Tech, she taught English Language Arts in the classroom for seven years. She later attended Lamar University to pursue her Master’s Degree in School Counseling. She secured the role as counselor at Townsell shortly after graduating.
Her favorite part about being a counselor at Townsell is building relationships with the students and their families. “There is nothing more rewarding than being able to serve our community,” she says. Michelle is able to do that through guidance lessons, relationships, and participation in programs such as Food for Thought.
The Food for Thought program was created in 2019, after the Irving Schools Foundation noticed that a major percentage of Irving ISD students fell under the poverty line and battled food insecurity. With the help of community partners and donors, two FFT pantries opened in Irving ISD and were led by volunteers who built food bags each week. Each food bag fed a student over the weekend. When the pandemic struck in March 2020, the need became greater and the weekend food bags became dinner bags to serve a student’s whole family. Today, thousands of food bags have been distributed with the help of hundreds of volunteers.
Michelle first learned about the Food for Thought program after a conversation with board member Renee Copeland. “I learned that FFT was starting to supplement and, eventually, take over the responsibilities from the North Texas Food Bank. After learning about how impactful it was, I immediately wanted to help and started attending the meetings and events. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to be a part of something that would change the lives of Irving scholars and their families.”
She has seen the program grow from the ground up. “Our kids know that they can rely on FFT for food and know that no matter what, they have something for the weekend.” Today, the FFT food pantries have expanded from the school campuses. Previously located at Travis and Bowie Middle Schools, the Irving Schools Foundation now has a whole warehouse that serves as the central pantry.
Michelle can’t wait to see how much more the program will grow and impact the lives of Irving ISD students. When asked about her goals with the program this year, she said, “My initial goal was to start the pantry at Townsell. Now that we have that, I’m looking forward to growing that to help us serve the schools that surround us. We have started to involve our students in the building of the bags and we want to continue to do that to give them a sense of community and knowing the beauty and importance of service.”
Michelle shares that the students’ reactions to receiving food bags is “joy and relief!” The food bags are not simply their snacks but their security. They are beyond grateful for the reliability that the bags provide. Their families are able to use their grocery expenses on other necessities.
In addition to supporting the Food for Thought program, Michelle has also touched the hearts of her students by starting a scholarship fund with the Irving Schools Foundation. The Townsell Timberwolf Scholarship in Memory of Pamela Grady provides former Timberwolves the opportunity to receive money to help further their education.
All of her support to the Irving Schools Foundation and school District do not go unnoticed. Her students at Townsell say:
“Ms. Grady helps me with my feelings and problems. I love her and am glad she hands out the bags. I will visit her when I leave Townsell.” -5th Grader
“I love the bags! The food is awesome and I especially love the noodles.”
“I love Ms. Grady because she is so nice and always helps me with whatever I need.” -3rd Grader
In thought of this holiday season and the value of giving, we asked Michelle why people should support the FFT program. She said, “I heard someone speak about their own food bank and they said, “When you give kids food, you give them hope.” That is what we do at FFT for hundreds of families each week and with your donation of time or money, you can give them that hope and relief! You can be the reason why a kid goes home with a big smile knowing their family will be able to eat over the weekend.”