what's in your backpack

Students Usher in the School Year with New Backpacks and School Supplies

Dr. Seuss once said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Back-to-school time can bring up a lot of emotions for both students and their families. And with “Back-to-School” shopping lists including everything from No. 2 pencils and wide-ruled notebooks for the youngest learners to highlighters, graph paper, and $150 calculators for high school students, shopping for those back-to-school “must haves,” can be stressful and costly. The average household income for Mercy Housing residents is $25,709, which is about one-third of the average American household income of $70,784. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), back-to-school spending now averages $890 per household in the U.S., causing very low-income and low-income families to make tough choices when it comes to spending.

Yoda Backpack
This young man wasted no time in selecting his Star Wars-themed backpack.

For children living in a stable home, a backpack holds the tools for academic success. From notebooks and pens to calculators and rulers, that school supply list adds up. Each year, many Mercy Housing communities host their annual Back-to-School Backpack and School Supply Drive. With the help of donors and community partners, such as Boeing, Forrester Financial, The Dolly Parton Imagination Library program, Mercy General, Baby2baby, and more, kids returned to the classroom this year equipped with brand-new backpacks and school supplies.

Beyond Technology – Students Still Need School Supplies

Mercy Housing Mountain Plains donated 478 backpacks with school supplies across the region. Moussaviall, a Mercy Housing Grace Apartments youth resident, shared that although he uses a laptop for much of his schoolwork, he still needs school supplies for his math and science classes. “I needed binders and notebooks to take notes.” A high school senior, who names Computer Science as his favorite subject, hopes to study software engineering in college. “Maybe CU Boulder or an overseas University,” he shared.

While 7th grader and Mercy Housing Mountain Plains youth resident, Sunny, Back-to-School time means “getting ready for a new year.” This dedicated student who loves History class and plays on her school’s volleyball team explained, “I like to learn about things and it’s fun to learn about the past.”

Meanwhile at Batavia Apartments in Illinois, over 100 young minds not only received backpacks filled with school supplies but with slings filled with toiletries in preparation for their return to the classrooms. In addition, the Batavia Lion’s Club provided free eye exams for 23 students and paid the cost of glasses as needed.

Batavia Youth Reading Winner
Crystal proudly holds up her Reading Winner Certificate – she was one of three youths to receive this award.

Batavia Apartments residents also celebrated three young readers who participated in their summer reading program. Congratulations to each winner for reading over 111 books over the summer.

Colorful Backpacks Bring Smiles to Students

With the help of partners and in-kind donors, 1,206 backpacks stuffed with school supplies including, pens, folders, crayons, erasers, and more were donated and distributed to Mercy Housing California youth residents in 27 communities across the state.

“The kiddos were so cute when picking out the colors of their backpacks,” said Clarisse Austria, Resident Services Coordinator II (So. Cal), Mercy Housing California.

Kids selecting backpacks
A volunteer from Boeing helps these young students select a backpack.

Investing in Education

Mercy Housing Northwest (MHNW) distributed approximately 950 backpacks across all communities. Families, community partners, and local school representatives gathered for back-to-school celebrations, which included fun activities for the kids, plus sports physicals and vaccinations were made available for anyone who needed them. These annual events provide families, students, and school staff with the opportunity to connect before the school bells ring.

Kids celebrate back-to-school
Mercy Housing Northwest students celebrate back-to-school time.

Additionally, MHNW recently launched Mercy Scholars, an educational program designed to support families in two Bellingham, Washington communities, Trailview and Sterling Meadow Apartments. The program includes a $1,000 scholarship to encourage kids to pursue post-secondary education. Check out this recent Bellingham Herald article talking about the impact Mercy Scholars is having on these communities.

And, at Savannah Gardens in Savannah, Georgia, 72 young residents selected from a colorful array of backpacks for the first day of a new school year. In addition, Mercy Housing Southeast’s newest family community, Thrive Sweet Auburn held a Back-to-School event for students. Thank you to Out-of-School Time grant supporters, Georgia Department of Education (BOOST grant), United Way of Greater Atlanta, Capital One, Virgil P. Warren Foundation, and Richard C. Munroe Foundation.

Back to School with a smile
Mercy Housing Southeast kids head back to school with a smile.

Thank you to all our sponsors across the country for helping to make the first day of school one to look forward to for Mercy Housing students and their families.