What Can 15 Years Accomplish? Colorado State University School Supply Drive Arms 13,000 for School Days

Numerous studies link self-image and self-esteem to academic success; just one of the important purposes behind School Is Cool, Colorado State University’s annual school supply drive for Poudre School District elementary and junior high students.

Now one of the university’s most popular community service efforts, the annual drive turns 15 this year. Since 1991, university employees have given 12,814 less fortunate children in the Poudre School District backpacks filled with grade-specific school supplies.

Due to School Is Cool’s popularity, the university-employee run committee overseeing the charity has opened the opportunity to donate to the larger Fort Collins community and university friends and alumni.

"Over the years, more and more people from the Fort Collins community who aren’t university employees have sent donations and offered to volunteer their time to School Is Cool," said Kathy Phifer, a Colorado State employee and founder of the drive. "We pleased to have the support of the larger Fort Collins community, which allows us to help even more school children who are in need."

The need for school supplies is significant in the Poudre School District, which includes Fort Collins and mountain schools within the county. All requests for the backpacks are provided to the School Is Cool committee through school counselors in each elementary and junior high school in the district.

Last year, the program provided supplies to 1,685 students, and the demand continues to increase. Statistics indicate that more than 25 percent of the Poudre School District’s elementary school students participated in the free- and reduced-lunch program during the 2005-2006 school year.

     During the first week of August, the committee coordinates dozens of volunteers to stuff backpacks with grade-specific school supplies, including thousands of crayons, pencils, scissors, spiral notebooks and rulers. Backpacks are sorted by school and grade level. Volunteers load one of the university’s large busses with the backpacks and deliver them to each school within one day so that the backpacks can be given to parents in need during pre-school conferences.

     "By working directly through the school counselors and delivering the backpacks in time for registration before classes start, the program allows children who participate to remain completely anonymous to other children and even to our committee," said Phifer. "The student has their brand new backpack and school supplies in time for their first day of school, and they can walk into their first class feeling confident that they have all of the supplies they need, just like the other children in the class."

Working closely with school supply companies and the university’s book store, the committee is able to get many of the supplies at a reduced cost or donated, making it possible to compile the needed supplies on a budget of about $20 for each student, including a high-quality and durable backpack.

     While School Is Cool accepts donations year-round, the drive to fill this year’s needs ends on August 3.

To contribute, send a check, payable to School is Cool, to Colorado State University Foundation, 502 University Services Center, 601 Howes St., Fort Collins, CO 80523. On-line giving also is available at http://welcome.colostate.edu/index.asp?url=schooliscool.

     For more details, contact Kathy Phifer at 491-6561 or Kathy.Phifer@colostate.edu or Dell Rae Moellenberg at 491-6009 or dellrae.moellenberg@colostate.edu. Parents wanting to request a backpack must contact their student’s school directly.