Colorado State University’s School is Cool Program Kicks Off Sixth Year

While Colorado State University continues flood recovery efforts, Colorado State employees are still focusing on the needs of the Fort Collins community.

For the sixth consecutive year, Colorado State University’s School Is Cool program will provide hundreds of less-fortunate Poudre School District elementary and junior-high students with backpacks stuffed with school supplies to start the school year in style. The number of low-income families in the Fort Collins area continues to grow, with nearly one-fourth of Poudre School District students participating in the free and reduced-lunch program.

"The program’s goal is to provide children with the same supplies as their peers, which really helps to build their self- esteem," said Kathy Phifer, program co-founder and university publications specialist. "It’s been wonderful to watch the support from the university community continue to grow during the last six years."

School Is Cool is organized and primarily funded by private donations from Colorado State employees with support from US WEST Dex and Norlarco Credit Union. Colorado State University employees are invited either to buy and stuff backpacks or to donate cash to help purchase packs and supplies. Employees then donate their time to stuff and deliver the backpacks to area schools.

Each year, the School Is Cool program receives hundreds of thank-you letters from parents, children and school officials. One third-grader wrote, "It really puts a smile on my face to know some people still care and understand what it’s like to not have a lot of money. Thanks a million, CSU."

The program was launched in 1992 as a part of the university’s effort to increase its connections with the local community. During the first year, School Is Cool provided 63 stuffed backpacks. Last year, the number of donated backpacks jumped to nearly 750.

Based on a survey distributed to the schools, the need for backpacks has increased again this year to 1,500 backpacks. The number of backpacks distributed to each school is based on the school’s percentage of students enrolled in the free and reduced- lunch program.

"School Is Cool helps students start the school year on the right foot," said Don Unger, Poudre School District superintendent. "Children who have the right tools feel more motivated and ready to start their new school year."

For more information about School Is Cool, call (970) 491-6432.