It is about that time of year when students and teachers begin thinking about returning to the classroom. It is also the time when parents begin thinking about the cost of school supplies. While some families can absorb the rising cost of school supplies and clothing, many families struggle amid the highest gas prices in the country and record inflation.
The Huntington Backpack Index and National Retail Federation estimate the cost of school supplies for students to exceed $800 for kindergarten through high school students and as much as $1,600 depending on their extracurricular activities. The cost increase is a significant portion of a family’s budget. As a parent of two children in school, I also see and feel the cost of school supplies. That is why, almost a decade ago, my wife Holly, a Centralia School District teacher, and I helped start the Centralia Back-to-School Supply Drive.
Every student should have the necessary tools to be successful in school, and that starts with being prepared on the first day. Too often, my wife, like many school staff, encountered students without proper shoes or clothing, without paper, binders or supplies. If a student’s family does not have the financial means for school supplies and weather-appropriate clothing, they will be less likely to focus, work and succeed at school.
A school supply drive is an opportunity to equip our children and send the message that we believe and support all our students; students who will one day be the leaders and business owners in our community.
When I was serving on the Centralia City Council, I remember the City of Centralia staff providing 25 fully loaded backpacks for the supply drive. It was not until I opened one backpack that I found a small note and $1 bill pinned to the inside pocket that read, “We believe in you, good luck!”
That note, and others like it, surely inspired the students who received them.
Small gestures of hope to a young student can be the difference between success and failure and the difference between success and the perpetuation of intergenerational poverty. We might not be able to help every family and every student, but we can be the change for one family at a time and one student at a time.
Some might read this article and respond that “it’s not their job to support someone else’s children” or “it doesn’t matter since they don’t have children in school.”
I’ve heard it all standing outside of Walmart collecting supplies and donations.
This is what I believe: I believe our children should not needlessly suffer academically for the economic circumstances of their family or community. I believe every student should start the school year with an opportunity for success and the feeling that they belong. I believe the small gesture of providing a backpack filled with necessary school supplies can have a huge positive impact that can last generations. I believe this because almost 10 years later, I hear stories from former Centralia School District students that the donations and community support from the supply drive helped them succeed and gave them hope.
There are many worthwhile local back-to-school supply drives to support.
Our Centralia Back-to-School Supply Drive and the Stuff-the-Bus event will be held at Walmart in Chehalis from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 11-12.
Please consider sponsoring the event, contributing or volunteering. We will have students, athletes and volunteers collecting supplies and donations all day. A special thanks to all the students, volunteers, contributors and sponsors. For more information, e-mail Holly Abbarno at firstname.lastname@example.org or Peter Abbarno at email@example.com.
Peter Abbarno is a Centralia-based attorney who also represents the 20th Legislative District as a state representative in the Washington Legislature.