Challenges for underserved youth in Cincinnati increase when it’s time to go back to school
As summer break comes to a close, there’s one thing that kids look forward to even more than another trip to the pool: back-to-school shopping. Boxes of brand new, shiny crayons, notebooks, a cool backpack, and other neat supplies get kids excited about starting a new grade with a new teacher.
Many Cincinnati, Ohio-area schoolchildren don’t get to go back-to-school shopping, or any other kind of shopping. These school-age students don’t know where their next meal will come from, much less a box of crayons. They show up on the first day of school unprepared and often frustrated.
Founded in 1997, Crayons to Computers bridges the gap for families and schools that cannot provide basic school supplies. Sadly, that number is growing. The City of Cincinnati has the 2nd highest child poverty rate in the country. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s latest Kids Count shows that 23 percent of the state’s children are living in poverty, compared to 19 percent in 2008.
With the latest round of state cuts to school district funding, teachers will continue to spend up to $1,000 per school year, out of their own pockets, to supplement classroom school supplies.
Crayons to Computers gives greater Cincinnati area teachers the materials they need to educate their students without having to stretch their own salary. Crayons to Computers operates a Teacher Free Store, which reopened for the school year on August 3. The organization serves teachers from more than 600 greater Cincinnati-area schools in 16 Ohio, Northern Kentucky, and Indiana counties.
“Every school-age student should start the year with the supplies he or she needs to succeed. Crayons to Computers works to make sure every child gets an equal chance to color, draw, and write their way to the top of the class,” says Susan Frankel, President & CEO of Crayons to Computers.
School tools for success
Eligible shoppers must be Preschool-Grade 12 lead classroom teachers or Preschool program directors employed at a school where at least 60 percent of the students qualify for the USDA’s National School Lunch Program. Currently about 70 percent of Cincinnati Public School students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
Teachers from schools that don’t meet this criteria can volunteer three hours at a time to earn shopping trips. During the 2014-15 school year, teachers from more than 200 schools participated in this program alone. This year the organization expects to serve more than 600 schools in total, 11,000 teachers and 144,000 school age students preschool through grade twelve.
Thanks to financial and product donations from companies, foundations, and individuals, Crayons to Computers hands out more than $12 million in free school supplies every year. The Teacher Free Store, located in Cincinnati, closes down for the summer. But on August 3, the Teacher Free Store reopened to hundreds of grateful teachers who have been able to utilize the Teacher Free Store to prepare for the beginning of the school year. Crayons to Computers estimates that during the previous school year, teachers left the store with an average of $600 each in school supplies and educational tools.
Give a kid a backpack…
Crayons to Computers recently launched a new program that allows donors to give needy school-age students a fully stocked backpack. A backpack for a kid isn’t just a means to carry books. It’s a way to fit in. When they get a new one, especially when their tattered, old pack breaks, it’s like Christmas in August! For a $15 donation, a child in need will receive a backpack filled with the core supplies that he or she needs to start the school year. The Crayons to Computers website has all the details.