Kids may not always look forward to going back to school, but they sure do like to get new stuff.
But some students can’t afford new folders, crayons and notebooks. On average, school supplies cost as much as $50 per child; some parents simply can’t spend that kind of money.
To make sure those kids get the same chance as others, the Northern Onondaga Public Libraries are conducting their ninth annual Great Start school supply drive. Supplies can be dropped off at any of the three libraries through Aug. 31.
We know there is a correlation between school performance and socioeconomic class, said Meg Backus of NOPL. Malcolm Gladwell’s recent book Outliers delineates the patterns pretty well. The students who generate those statistics are likely not aware of the system-level disparity. They are more likely to experience their disadvantage by feeling lousy about their stuff compared to other kids’ stuff, or feeling anxiety about that list of supplies they receive when they know their families have no spare money for those items.
The school supply drive might not address those core inequalities, but it does address that immediate need.
The average individual person can do little in the way of serious social or educational reform, Backus said. A single average person can, however, prevent a child from crying at the bus stop because she doesn’t have a new backpack. We can alleviate some of the immediate distress experienced by underprivileged students and their parents.
The supplies collected by NOPL are distributed through local food pantries.
People who use the food pantries come with the lists of required materials, Backus said. The pantries try their best to fulfill those lists. Any supplies leftover at the pantries after school is underway are taken directly to schools, so that when teachers observe students who lack adequate materials, the supplies are immediately available at the point of need.
About 100 students benefit from the drive each year.
Providing supplies to those students, Backus said, equalizes the playing field on the first day of school.
Everyone should begin a new school year equipped with the materials to be successful, she said. Bright, clean school supplies always seem full of promise. We picture ourselves doing great things with new sharp crayons, or unblemished notebooks. They get our imaginations going; they motivate us. We call the drive ‘Great Start’ because everyone should begin the year with that excited, hopeful, fresh feeling.
An essential school supply
One of the most valuable tools a child can have is a library card.
If a student – any level of student – doesn’t have a library card, he or she does not have everything needed for school, Meg Backus said.
To get a library card, visit any one of NOPL’s three locations:
8686 Knowledge Lane, Cicero, NY 13039
5437 Library Street, Brewerton, NY 13029
‘ ‘NOPL@North Syracuse
100 Trolley Barn Lane, North Syracuse, NY 13212
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.