Back to School drives help many less fortunate students

Scottsdale’s back-to-school event in 2018 reflects continuous efforts by Scottsdale Community Partners, the Vista del Camino Community Center with local organizations to provide hundreds of children school supplies. (File photos)

As students return to their assigned classes, back to school drives are held Valley-wide to assist the throngs of less fortunate students.

While students share a common routine of going back to school, another fact remains as there are some students whose plight is not as easy when it comes to affording necessary school supplies and clothing for the new school year.

“Growing up poor can severely limit access to good health and education and safe and stable neighborhoods. This builds more barriers to educational success and healthy transitions to adulthood,” according to the Arizona KIDS COUNT Databook, detailing statewide trends documented at azchildren.org.

Between 2009-16, the statistics show a trend of struggling, hard-working parents whose children live in poverty, the document noted.

The annual back-to-school program helps qualified, pre-screened, Scottsdale students with backpacks, clothing, undergarments, athletic shoes and more.

With more than 6,500 low-income students in the Scottsdale Unified School District, the district’s Back to School Program, facilitated by Scottsdale Community Partners, provides qualified students with a new, large backpack full of school supplies such as three-ring binders; a pair of running shoes, and clothing including pants, shirts, socks and undergarments.

The event works with the City of Scottsdale’s Covering the Bases: Back to School Program, along with the SUSD, and several non-profit, civic, faith, and business organizations to assist needy students.

Eligibility is based on students being a Scottsdale resident or enrolled in the district; parents providing proof of income or providing a free or reduced school lunch letter to participate in the program. Students must be at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines and be enrolled in the Free and Reduced Lunch Program.

Similarly, efforts are extended by Valley businesses such as LGO Hospitality, Shamrock Farms, DollarDays, Grateful Spoon Gelato and Treasures 4 Teachers, which have partnered to collect school supplies for Arizona students and educators.

The group of businesses are uniting to host its first Sundae Sunday! from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Aug. 4 at La Grande Orange Grocery & Pizzeria, according to a release, encouraging attendees to donate school supplies and receive a free Grateful Spoon Gelato sundae.

All supplies are donated to Treasures 4 Teachers and will be delivered to Tavan Elementary School in Phoenix, the release noted.

Scottsdale Community Partners Executive Director Jenny Adams answered the following questions about SUSD’s back to school program:

What does the Back-To-School Program entail for the Scottsdale Unified School District since a drive is underway to collect items? At the Back to School event, qualified, pre-screened, Scottsdale students receive; pants, two shirts, three underwear, three pairs of socks, bras for girls fifth grade and up (as needed), athletic shoes, backpacks and a generous bag of school supplies. In addition, they receive a meal and the chance to fill out paperwork for free and reduced lunches. They also receive free dental screenings, referrals for vaccination clinics and a library book.

Where do recipients get donated back to school items? The event is on July 24 at The Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, however in order to attend they must have been pre-screened in March and April. This is not an open program and applicants must be pre-screened to attend.

What kinds of donations are sought and why? Our biggest need is for financial donations. This is because funds go much further through non-profit purchases than an individual person purchasing on their own at regular store prices. In addition, financial donations allow us to purchase the most needed items when they are on sale or deep discounts. We also accept donations of key school supplies particularly, binders, sharpies, quality backpacks, bundles socks and underwear. All items must be new and in their packaging.

What is the progress so far with collecting donations? We have tremendous support from the Scottsdale community; however, we are not at 100% of our goal. After passing the 1,000-student mark, we began accepting year-round donations which are always appreciated.

How many children benefit from the program? This year we anticipate just over 1,050 students participating.

How many volunteers are there? Between the teams of volunteers that work leading up to the event, the day of the event and the post event we have well over 100 active volunteers.

What should people know about helping low income students? Low income students are just like every other student. They want to fit in with their peers and have the benefit of having new clothing and supplies as they start the school year. Because the start of school can be so financially overwhelming, our program aims to make sure that kids start the school year on an equal footing with their peers and at the same time prevent struggling families from making choices between school supplies and immediate needs. Many of these students do extremely well in school and as a community, they are our future. So, the donations and the program in fact, invest in the community and its future.

Does this contribute to a positive start to the school year? When students are able to start the year on equal footing with their peers it sets them up for success. In addition, if we can help teachers not have to reach in their own pockets to supply students, everyone wins.

Give an example of how students benefited from the efforts? Students select their own clothing, shoes, backpacks and school supplies just as any kid deserves to. Students are fully-equipped to return to school, prepared to succeed. Without this program, students may not otherwise have the necessary items needed to have a promising educational experience.

Independent Newsmedia News Services Specialist Delarita Ford can be reached by e-mail at dford@newszap.com.

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