The Education Partnership's three-year effort to give school supplies to schools where students lack even the basics is more necessary than ever.
"We're seeing kids coming to school with nothing," says the Partnership's Program Manager Andrea Zimmer, who oversees the free school-supply application process. "It's really setting them apart from their peers [socially] and putting them at a disadvantage compared to their peers."
From pens, pencils, glue sticks and notebooks and to reams of copy paper, the free-supply list is large, and it can be replenished once during the year. At schools' requests, the Partnership has also supplied such things as tee shirts, granola bars (with the help of General Mills and Giant Eagle) and incentive items for students, such as art supplies.
"At the end of this year's program, we'll have distributed 150,000 pencils," notes Zimmer. "I think that shows both the impact of this program and the need in the schools."
Applications for the 2013-14 school year are now available here
. Schools in Allegheny and four surrounding counties -- Beaver, Butler, Washington, Westmoreland -- are eligible if at least 70 percent of their students receive a free or reduced-price lunch. That covers 100 schools in the five-county region, Zimmer says. Previous recipients are still eligible, but they must apply again. The deadline is midnight on March 22.
The Partnership will notify 20 selected schools in June and distribute the student supplies during an in-school distribution event in December.
"If a student's parent cannot afford to provide a lunch, it's unlikely that they will be able to provide all the school supplies that are necessary," Zimmer adds. Teachers on average spend $1,200 a year to supply their own classrooms and students, but that's an unsustainable situation. "We're trying to step in there and fill in that gap. And we're hearing very great results." Children can concentrate on schoolwork without wondering how they can correct their notes or a test answer without an eraser, she says.
She urges schools that aren't familiar with the program to stop in to the Partnership office to learn more, or to call her at 412-922-6500. The group accepts donations, too, she adds.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Andrea Zimmer, The Education Partnership