As the summer winds down and kids prepare to head back to school, some Berkeley residents are pooling resources to ensure that students have the necessary supplies for success. The first of a number of backpack giveaways will take place this weekend, and those involved are hopeful their efforts can make a difference.
DeMaria Travillian, who was born and raised in Berkeley, will hold her first back-to-school giveaway Sunday at 11:30 a.m, at San Pablo Park. Her goal: to help as many students as possible.
For many kids, the beginning of a new school year represents a chance to reach new heights, an opportunity to learn and grow. What many may forget is that a number of kids who show up to that first day of school don’t have the proper tools to excel in the classroom. Travillian, 25, says she was reminded of this when her daughter started school.
“I noticed how many of her classmates didn’t have backpacks or crayons and it really shocked me,” said Travillian. “I always had school supplies growing up, so I was blind to the fact that there were kids who didn’t have them.”
Travillian graduated from both Longfellow Middle School and Berkeley High and can recall her classmates asking to borrow materials, but she never fully understood the severity of their situations. She didn’t realize they didn’t have the materials because they couldn’t afford them.
Now that she’s older and able, she wants to use her resources to help students in need. Travillian logged onto Facebook and told her friends and family she wanted to organize a back-to-school drive. Her post received such positive feedback that Travillian decided to launch a gofundme account to raise $200 to buy school supplies for 100 kids. (She has raised $160 so far). She hopes she will be able to help 100 kids with the money and supplies she has collected.
“I want to help lay the foundation for a successful school year for the kids of Berkeley,” said Travillian. “It is my duty. I feel as if I have some type of duty to help others when I can.”
In addition to Travillian’s back-to-school drive, City Councilman Darryl Moore has worked with Rosa Parks Elementary School for 12 consecutive years to provide students with back-to-school supplies. Each year, Moore’s office writes grants and raises funds to the effort, according to his aide Ryan Lau.
“It’s important for kids to start off on the right track with the right supplies,” he said. “It increases their chances of being successful with their educational goals.”
In 2009, a group of UC Berkeley students also started to participate in backpack giveaways to low-income children when K to College was formed. The organization, which has since grown exponentially, gave out 300 school supply kits that year, according to the group’s website. By 2010, the group gave away 10,000 school kits to students around the Bay Area. The group makes a special effort to help homeless kids.
In 2014, about 5% of the students in BUSD were homeless, according to Susan Craig, BUSD’s director of student services. Many more come from low-income families. It takes stress off of parents who may not be able to afford paper, pens, and notebooks to know their kids will have the proper supplies, he said. He also pointed out how these events are a chance for the community to come together and lean on each other.
“Many of the donations come from right inside our community,” said Moore. “It’s nice to see people lending a helping hand.”
Moore’s office and K to College have worked together to distribute nearly 1,500 backpacks and a host of other school supplies for students over the last 12 years. This year’s giveaway at Rosa Parks is on Aug. 26, but it is only for families whose students are enrolled at Rosa Parks families.
Know of other local back-to-school events? Please let us know in the comments.
Editor’s note: This article was updated Aug. 15 to clarify the fact that Darryl Moore’s office raises the funds to distribute the backpacks and supplies.
Berkeley kids get free school supplies (08.24.10)
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