Northwest NEWS

August 6, 2001

Features

Back to school backpack drive

By Bronwyn Wilson
   Senior Staff Reporter
   It's the first day of school and now you're a full-fledged fourth grader. You brought your brand new backpack to class. Inside, you've got a box of twenty-four colored pencils. You've also got new markers in all kinds of awesome colors and scissors, erasers, glue, a really cool binder and a supply box with a lid that snaps shut. You got all the cool stuff the day you and your mom drove to the store, the one with the back-to-school section.
   You're not sure what it all cost .... Parents have a pretty good idea, though. Teresa Kalista, mother of two elementary students in the Northshore School District, speaks from personal experience and says, "You probably spend a minimum 50 bucks before a kid walks into school. And that doesn't include clothes!" Kalista, like thousands of other Northshore moms, wants her children prepared for learning on the first day and knows how important it is to her kids. "It means a lot when these kids are able to come to school with a backpack and have all their stuff."
   But not all kids in the Northshore area have families who can afford to buy the necessary school supplies.
   Darcy Barham, co-chair of the Education Committee of the Woodinville Chamber of Commerce says, "We always think we have plenty here in Woodinville. We think it's not a problem, not here. But there's a large influx of immigration in the area and there's been a downturn in the economy."
   Dr. Karen Forys, Northshore School District Superintendent and Education Committee co-chair, says there are local families who are having financial difficulties. "We have families in our area who are really struggling," she says.
   In an effort to help families who can't afford to purchase necessary school supplies, the Education Committee is sponsoring a drive to provide backpacks filled with classroom supplies needed by students in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades. The goal is to outfit 100 school backpacks and donate them to elementary schools in the area. School nurses keep track of families who might have special needs and will distribute the backpacks.
   The students who receive the filled backpacks will not only have the tools needed for learning, but also the feeling of inclusion with their classmates.
   Dr. Forys explains the results of students who feel excluded, "When kids feel they're not like their peers, they're feeling embarrassed and that interferes with learning."
   Darcy Barham agrees, "We want them to feel good the first day of school. We want it to be so they have nothing in the way of their learning."
   The community can help by donating one or more backpacks full of supplies or a portion of supplies or by writing a check in any amount. A check for $40 would supply a complete backpack.
   Backpacks and/or supplies can be dropped off at the Woodinville Chamber of Commerce, Woodinville City Hall or at the Chamber luncheon on Aug. 16.
   "We're hoping to collect them Aug. 16," says Barham. "We will actually distribute them to the schools and [the school nurses] will distribute them as needed."
   In any event, schools will provide basic supplies to needy students, but the resources used to pay for the supplies takes from funds that would otherwise cover the cost of field trips or supplemental books.
   For this reason, the Education Committee asks the community to support the Backpacks for Kids drive so that every student can return to school in September with the supplies they need.
   In addition, it helps schools keep resources targeted for other uses.
   For further information, contact co-chairs Darcy Barham at (425) 821-8210 or Dr. Karen Forys at (425) 489-6353 or kforys@nsd.org.
   Make checks payable to the Northshore Public Education Foundation and designate Backpacks for Kids.