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NOPL giving kids a 'Great Start'

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.

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