McCullough: Back-to-School Supplies Drives Fill Worcester's Gap 1

As my colleague Brian O’Connell wrote in last week’s edition, funding is something that we continue to fight for for our schools. Funding for new buildings, for building upgrades, for staff, for educational resources and materials and much more. Even basic school supplies are in short supply and many teachers try their best to provide extras for those students in need out of their own pockets.

However with 52% of WPS categorized as economically disadvantaged, teachers can not provide all that our students need.

We are so fortunate in our community that we have so many individuals, organizations and businesses willing to step up and help our schools. One of the ways that this is done is through area back-to-school drives. These initiatives truly help to fill a gap and provide students in need with the supplies that they need to begin the school year prepared and ready to hit the ground running.

Woodrow Adams Jr. is a Court Officer and product of the Worcester Public Schools. He began a school supply drive this year that he intends on making an annual event which he is calling The Forever Young event. It is a community event put together by Mr. Adams with the help of the Massachusetts Trial Court System in Worcester. This event has been created to benefit the less fortunate families in the city of Worcester that are unable to afford basic school supplies.

 Mr. Adams grew up in Worcester and attended Worcester Public Schools. He is looking to teach children the importance of volunteer work in your community and how giving back makes a difference, “not just in the community but within one’s self”. He hopes that this annual event, “will ensure to solidify a stronger community”. He’s certainly off to a good start, enough supplies were collected to provide 500 backpacks filled with school supplies for those children in need.

 One of the long time drives in the area is Set for Success. This year was the 12th Annual Set For Success School Supply Drive. Run by City Councilor Kate Toomey, Dorothy Hargrove and Director of Friendly House Gordon Hargrove, in collaboration with the Worcester Public Schools, the Worcester Fire and Police Departments, the Junior League of Worcester, the initiative helps collect school supplies in the Worcester area for those students in need. Through the community’s generosity, they have been able to meet the needs of over 15,000 students over the years. 

This year was the 8th Annual Planting the Seed Foundation Stuff the Bus drive. Planting the Seed is a local, all volunteer non-profit that organizes a variety of initiatives for children in need throughout the year. There were over 30 drop off locations throughout the city at area businesses. PTS President and Worcester Firefighter Tommy Donoghue states “this was probably our best year, we were able to collect enough supplies through donations to fully outfit 160 backpacks”. The organization was also able to provide thousands of individual school supplies that were delivered to local agencies, after school programs and schools throughout the city. 

TWIW recently featured Simon Eber, a local high school student who founded the local chapter of Simon Says Give; a kid founded and kid operated nonprofit with the tagline of kids Celebrating Kids. With the funds and supplies he collected, Simon was able to provide backpacks filled with supplies to 6th graders at Columbus Park, Woodland Academy and Midland Street School upon their graduations this past June.

McCullough: Back-to-School Supplies Drives Fill Worcester's Gap 2

Simon Eber/Photo by Matt Wright

When I sat down and talked with Simon recently, he emphasized that he wants to be sure “that these students receive quality supplies and backpacks”. Having students provide color preferences ahead of time so they can distribute the backpacks accordingly is important to him. He wants the students to feel valued and also wants to include them

In the process. He was able to get some of last year’s recipients to participate in an assembly line of sorts to fill the backpacks with all of the supplies. He plans on expanding the number of sixth graders that he is able to provide backpacks to this year and has additionally ventured into throwing birthday parties for students who wouldn’t otherwise have one. 

Knowing how important it is to a student’s achievement to have the appropriate school supplies, it is clear to see that these organizations and individuals are providing our students with something evening more valuable than school supplies. They are providing them with the tools to begin the school year with confidence and on the path to success. It takes the support of our community for our schools to be as successful as possible and as you can see, just by these few individuals and organizations, we certainly have the support of the community behind us. 

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