The First Day of School

The first day of school is a big deal.  I remember how much time I spent as a kid picking out the perfect outfit and organizing my new school supplies.  I took time to explore my new backpack and label of my binders.  I would sharpen my pencils, test out my markers and calculator, and show off my new shoes to friends.  I never once thought about the cost that my parents swallowed to make it all happen.  And I never considered what it would mean to not have these things – I was lucky. 

But there’s a different reality out there: Let’s start with a family like mine with two parents and two kids.  However, Dad is out of work due to an injury – he can’t make it to his construction gig with a torn ACL.  Mom works two jobs at minimum wage to cover the rent, electric, and growing medical bills.  The kids are out of school, sometimes with Dad, sometimes with Grandma, but keeping them fed during the summer months is a challenge.  Now August rolls around and somehow this struggling family has to find the cash to equip their two kids for school. 

According to the National Retail Federation the average cost of basic school supplies in 2013 in the United States has soared over $90 per child.  In addition to the basics, parents need to provide classroom items like tissues and hand sanitizer, not to mention new clothes, shoes, sport fees and equipment, averaging a total of $345 per child*.  In Jefferson County, 34% of kids qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch**.  Out of 84,000 Jeffco students, that translates to a staggering 28,500 kids that are living in poverty in our neighborhoods.

At its heart, the Action Center’s School Supply Distribution is a prevention program.  For the 2,096 families who benefit from the event last year, it helped them remain on their feet, with a roof over their head and food on their table.  The Distribution meant parents did not have to make difficult choices between medical bills, paying utilities, or providing school supplies for their kids.  For the 5,194 kids who received supplies, it meant that they could show off their new Transformers backpack and their sparkly Dora the Explorer notebook to all of their friends.  More importantly, it allowed kids to focus their energy on learning instead of feeling shame for having less.  It provided hope and dignity for each child starting school and relief for the parents and care takers in every family.

I remember the joy that exploring my new supplies brought me as a kid.  I invite you to take part in providing that same joy at our School Supply Distribution this August, and help the kids we serve prance around with pride sporting their new backpack and supplies, ready to tackle the school year.

 

For information on how to volunteer, please email me at nirad@theactioncenterco.org

For information on providing supplies or funds, please email Andrew at andrewc@theactioncenterco.org

 

*https://nrf.com/news/back-school-spending-no-pent-demand-this-year

** http://www.jeffcopublicschools.org/schools/profiles/district_profile.html

 

 

 

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