The cost of a new school year: program provides Scottsdale students with supplies

School supplies were bagged up prior to the Back to School event and labeled according to grade level. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

School supplies were bagged up prior to the Back to School event and labeled according to grade level. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

As children excitedly head back to school this month, many will be wearing new clothes and carrying new supplies in new backpacks.

But for some families, providing adequate supplies for their children at the start of a new school year is anything but joyous.

Thanks to the Scottsdale Back to School Program — and a cooperative effort between several community organizations — low-income children will have the necessary supplies needed to start the school year.

In addition to furnishing growing children with shoes and properly fitting clothing year after year, students are required to arrive to their new classroom every August with a backpack full of new supplies.

“It costs a lot of money to get them supplies and clothes,” said the Back to School Program Coordinator, Rosita Pinedo during the annual July 27 Back to School event held at Scottsdale Stadium. “Our families here could be using that money for food or rent.”

The third-grade supply list for the 2016-17 school year at Redfield Elementary School includes Crayola colored pencils, markers and crayons, in addition to folders, scissors, a non-wheeled backpack and headphones.

Depending on the variety, Crayola markers range from $1.97 to $8.68 on Walmart.com.

The kindergarten list at Redfield includes 12 “large” glue sticks per student. A three-pack of glue sticks at Walmart.com is priced at $2.97.

About 27 percent of Scottsdale students are eligible for free and reduced lunches, according to the Scottsdale Unified School District. Furthermore, one-third of the district’s schools receive Title 1 federal funds, which assists students at risk of failure, and living at or near poverty.

The city of Scottsdale in partnership with SUSD and other local organizations have been supplying families with these necessities for years at the Back-to-School Program.

This year, an estimated 900-1,000 students will be shopping for attire and school supplies during the 11-hour July 27 event at Scottsdale Stadium, 7408 E. Osborn Road.

To be eligible, the child must be in a Scottsdale school or a Scottsdale resident, and be considered low-income.

Beginning at 7 a.m. over 150 volunteers including the Scottsdale Charros, Concerned Citizens, Weebly, Partners for Paiute, Honor Health and Police Officers of Scottsdale Association organized several stops throughout the stadium for families.

Stations included SUSD snacks, underwear, socks and shoes, Kids Care I.D., immunization appointments, bras, pants, shirts, dental screenings and backpacks.

First year volunteer Halley McIntyre was helping seventh- through 12th-grade girls find a sports bra.

“They’re a little shy when they first come in, but then they’re like ‘oh this is awesome!’” said Ms. McIntyre.

Seventh grade through high school students make up about 40 percent of the students in attendance at the Back to School Program.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to show up and feel good on their first day of school. Everyone seems really happy and really excited,” said Ms. McIntyre.

On hand were police officers creating identification cards for young children to carry with them. The cards include personal and family information in case of an emergency.

Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane was in attendance, which Ms. Pinedo says, shows the level of commitment the city has for its students.

“It reflects on the spirit of the community that they are willing to help out people in need,” she said.

“Everybody kind of pitched in.”

The event receives donations from local churches and organizations, and it also received a school supply grant this year. Additionally, Police Officers of Scottsdale Association donated 1,100 pairs of children’s shoes.

The families Ms. Pinedo witnessed on the morning of the Back to School event were joyful, she said.

“It’s been going really nice. Families are happy,” Ms. Pinedo recalled. “They are going through and saying ‘Did you get everything you needed?’”

The program has been growing every year, said Scottsdale Human Services Commissioner and former SUSD Governing Board member Denny Brown.

“Let’s make it big and fun,” said Mr. Brown. “We went from 300 and some change, to 832 last year, and this year we’ll probably do close to 1,000 by the time we’re done.”

Mr. Brown enjoys watching the children walk away with a new backpack and a big smile.

“Let’s start the year with pride,” he said. “You get your brand new things, you have all these people smiling at you … that’s the goal.”

Families interested in joining the program next year can contact the city in the spring, or inquire about the program at school.

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be e-mailed at mfittro@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/melissafittro.

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