VALLEY — Education is a cornerstone of equality and opportunity. Helping promote education is a key way La Puente works to address the root causes of homelessness and poverty in the SLV.
In this community, one third of children grow up in poverty. This means their parents must sometimes decide between paying bills or buying school supplies; a dilemma no parent should face. To help address this need La Puente hosted their 8th Annual Backpack Drive last week so parents won’t have to make those hard choices.
This year La Puente was able to help more than 700 SLV students get the tools they need to succeed in school. Each backpack came with a three-ring binder, notebook, loose-leaf paper, folders, crayons, colored pencils, glue sticks, scissors, and a pencil pouch.
This year’s backpack drive was a massive undertaking that required support from all over the community. Amazing partners like the South Fork community and Church of Christ, who donated more than $2,700, helped La Puente raise more than $5,000 to buy supplies. Churches like Trinity Lutheran and the United Methodist collected supplies and brought them to La Puente. AmeriCorps members helped stuff and distribute supply-filled-backpacked in Alamosa, San Luis, Antonito, Monte Vista, Del Norte, and Center.
La Puente also partnered with local guidance counselors and teachers who helped identify the students who could most benefit from a stocked backpack. With support of community partners, La Puente was able to distribute 720 students in all 14 school districts in the San Luis Valley.
La Puente believes that education guarantees that where you start out in life does not determine where you end up. Educations helps ensure that the benefits and burdens of society do not depend on what someone looks like or comes from, but rather that those who work hard should be able to advance and participate fully in society.
However, in a community like the San Luis Valley, where 70 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunches, too many families struggle to come up with the money necessary to send a child back to school. And unless youth have the right tools, they can’t succeed in school. It’s hard to learn to write if you don’t have a pencil.
For those who would like to support students in the community, La Puente is already planning next year’s school drive, and they want to make it bigger and better. Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of the fire. Please contact Israel Garcia, [email protected], to be part of next year’s drive.
Caption: AmeriCorps Members, Christine Greve and MK McDonald, with excited students in Monte Vista. Photo courtesy of La Puente