Students entering kindergarten through third grade at three Lorain County school districts will have a new backpack filled with school supplies waiting for them when they show up for classes next school year thanks to county Prosecutor Dennis Will’s office.
Will announced the Give Back with Backpacks program, which will give the bookbags to students from Clearview, Elyria and Lorain schools in a news release June 12 as part of his office’s ongoing Project Outreach which seeks to strengthen the relationship between the Prosecutor’s Office and the community.
The new program is part of Project Outreach’s general push to be more proactive in their interactions with the community, Will said.
He said his office was hearing from groups that it was difficult for some families to purchase the school supplies.
“What would happen is a lot of the teachers would buy supplies out of their own pockets, some of them would try to get grants where they would try to see where they could get any additional supplies donated,” Will said. “While people were generous, giving to these different fundraisers like Stuff the Cruiser and Stuff the Bus, all of those supplies weren’t necessarily consistent with what they needed in the different classrooms.”
So Will and his office made a goal of finding the most consistent list of supplies used by the different schools and what they actually could accommodate with the amount of funding the office had.
“(The intention) would actually give each child a backpack and that they would be outfitted for the start of the school year so that the parents would not be taxed financially or economically to have to purchase these items because many find it difficult to do that,” he said.
Each student between kindergarten and third grade will receive the backpack, as well as binders, colored pencils, crayons, dry-erase markers, glue, tissues, highlighters, scissors and more, according to the release.
Will said his office looked all over the county to decide which districts would receive the supplies and found that Clearview, Elyria and Lorain had the proper number of students in the specific grades to fit with the program’s budget, which is made up of funds seized from local drug dealers.
“Hopefully, if we grow this program, we can move toward (giving supplies to all students in the county),” he said. “The choice became, do what we could right now with what we had, or waiting, and I didn’t think waiting was a good alternative.”
Lorain County Community College will assist the Prosecutor’s Office with logistics for the program, said Tracy Green, vice president of strategic and institutional development for LCCC.
“We really are just lending some helping hands,” Green said. “We’re going to be a location to help stuff the backpacks and do some of the organization of putting everything together and then getting them distributed to the schools.
“It’ll be a service learning project for students as well as a volunteer opportunity for our faculty and staff.”
Programs like these are important because of the need for school supplies in the county, Green said.
“We know that students who can start school and have the tools and the resources they need are just going to be ahead,” she said. “So if we can give them those resources to get started well, at least they’re off to a good start.”
Eric Bonzar, marketing and communications manager for Lorain City Schools, said the district is very appreciative.
“It’s a good thing for the district,” Bonzar said. “Anytime anyone in the community steps up and tries to relieve any burden that any (student) or family is facing, that’s always appreciated.”
Will said if anyone is looking to donate supplies or volunteer to help stuff the backpacks, they should reach out to his office’s Facebook page or call the office’s general line at 440-329-5389 and ask to speak to Tracy Smalley, the project outreach coordinator.