As an employee of Oakland Schools working with students in need for the past 10 years, it’s become obvious to me that one thing those students really want is to start the school year with all the supplies they’ll need to be successful. However, purchasing everything a student needs for the school year can be costly: pencils, crayons, notebooks, backpacks, etc., you name it, it’s on the list. At Oakland Schools Homeless Student Services, one of our main jobs is to mitigate those issues so that each child can start off the school year ready to learn.
And for many years, the National Council of Jewish Woman (NCJW), has helped us do just that.
As it is, the beginning of August is always a busy time as we gear up for the start of the school year. Frankly, sometimes the thought of having to ask an entire office of colleagues to spend an entire day moving boxes and boxes of backpacks (usually in extreme heat) feels daunting and I almost feel bad about it.
However; once we arrive onsite and see all of the amazing school supplies and backpacks that are being packed and boxed up by dozens of eager volunteers, I am quickly reminded of how amazing it is to be involved in such an amazing process.
For more than 10 years, the National Council of Jewish Woman, Greater Detroit Sector has been writing a grant that allows them to purchase backpacks and school supplies for over 1,000 homeless students. That means, during this time, this group has donated a minimum of 10,000 backpacks to help local students. That, to me, is simply amazing.
Over the years, the process has been streamlined and seems to flow better and better. When we first began working with NCJW, we would pick up bags using garbage bags and our own personal vehicles and then I would spend weeks driving around Oakland County and delivering bags to individual buildings. This in itself was a daunting task!! These days, I am able to ship boxes of backpacks (identified as elementary, middle or high school, all prepackaged with appropriate supplies) directly to local district homeless liaisons via interoffice mail and the districts distribute directly to the students in need! It truly is such an amazing collaboration.
I feel so fortunate to have such incredible community partners who help to support the needs of homeless youth in Oakland County.
Homeless students have reported the need for wanting to feel “like every other student” when they walk into the classroom on the first day of school and by having a new bag full of supplies helps them to be able to feel just that way!
Sara Orris is the Homeless Student Services consultant for Oakland Schools.