In the United States, more than 14.8 million children live at or below the poverty line according to the Kids In Need Foundation. For these children the cost of purchasing new school supplies each autumn can be more than their family can afford. According to a survey conducted by Perry Research Professionals in 2010 the average teacher spent on average $356 out of pocket annually on school supplies for their classroom. In 2005 a group of Drake University students decided they could do more to lessen to burden for parents and teachers alike.
In 2005, Drake alumni Shekinah Young and three fellow Bulldogs began the charity foundation, Back 2 School Bash. Since then the organization has grown and taken in donations and provided new school supplies for hundreds of students. This year, with a donation of $12 per student, the Back 2 School Bash was able to provide 600 students with new school supplies at their event at the John R. Grubb YMCA on Sunday, Aug.26.
“Myself and three others were exploring the Drake community and when people asked us what brought us, we would say Drake,” Young said. “They assumed we were athletes. It made us feel like they thought Drake and a higher education were unattainable. We wanted to empower the community and Drake area. We came to Drake as students, as outsiders, and we began to see this community as our community. We wanted to be sure they could achieve any goal they set especially when it came to education.”
In preparation for the new school year, the Back 2 School Bash also offered free health screenings. The event also hosted a list of entertainment for the community to have one last taste of summer before putting the donated supplies to work. There was a talent show, a basketball tournament, food vendors and a carnival.
Mary Bess Bolling had her first year with the program this year. As a Drake University alumni, the cause was special to her and hit close to home.
“I think one of the most important aspects of the Back 2 School Bash is that it’s a grass roots organization,” Bolling said. “This group of Drake students started when they were still in college. It seems like what they saw in the community really was what started the Back 2 School Bash event.”
This past weekend’s Back 2 School Bash marked its seventh year since being created in 2005.
“I think the community honestly needs this program, “Bolling said. “There were kids who had already started school lined up at 12:45 (p.m.) to get their supplies and the event didn’t even start until 2 (p.m.). They needed those items in order to continue their education.”
Unfortunately, each year school supplies must be replaced. While 600 students walked away with new supplies and are able to have the tools they need to learn this year, there is not a positive way of telling how many will need this charity come next year.
“The first couple of years we did 300 bags of school supplies,” Young said. “There were always people at the end of the line who didn’t receive backpacks so we increased it to 500. This year we did 600. The growth is pretty evident.”
It is important for those who are able to give to this cause to share what they have for the good of the students. As a founder of the program, Young feels the biggest thanks and greatest outcome would be for the members of the community to continue to give back and create a cycle.
“I think continuing to communicate to potential donors that this need is out there is the next step,” Bolling said. “It’s crucial to support education in every community, but especially in ours where it isn’t always easy to stay in school. We need students, activist, and everyone who cares about these kids staying in school to stand behind the Back 2 School Bash and have energy about it. This started with the energy of four individuals and it’s been going strong for seven years now.”