Carolline, a mom, and Charlie, a child, share their perspectives
August is approaching quickly and the back to school shopping has officially began. The cardboard bins of colorful notebooks, sparkling pencils, and graphic binders that every child “needs” are in the middle of the isles, blocking the way to the groceries. Children begin to get excited to go back to their friends, classroom projects, and their favorite swing on the playground. Every household has their own traditions when it comes to preparing for school. These unique rituals are fun for most parents and their children, but some, like Caroline and Charlie, are approaching Back to School with worry and fear.
Caroline is a mother of 4 children between the ages 3-13. She loves her kids very much and wants nothing but the best for them when it’s time to go back to school.
Caroline is currently a client in the Alvis residential reentry program and is steadily on track to rebuilding her life. As Caroline talks about sending her kids back to school, she is very excited for her kids, but it’s also overwhelming for her. She has one starting preschool and one starting high school. Caroline said just hearing the words “Back to School” stresses her out.
In past years, Caroline would have started school shopping back in June in order to cut down on the stress on her time and her budget. She always started with buying school clothes for her children. As time gets closer and sales start, she begins shopping for school supplies. The extra time makes it easier to spread out the cost and reduce the stress.
Caroline wants her kids to feel comfortable and welcome in school so they can earn a great education and feel loved at the same time. That’s what every child deserves! But since she’s at Alvis, she can’t do her back to school shopping all summer like she was able to do before. It’s making her anxious she feels like she’s going to let her kids down this year.
Caroline was asked, “What if you could provide your children with a backpack full of all the items they need for back to school. How would that make you feel?” Her eyes lit up and she said it would truly be a blessing and make her and her children feel fortunate. It would also lift the weight off her shoulders to know that they had everything they needed to start the school year with confidence.
Charlie is sitting in the kitchen talking to his grandma about school starting soon. He was entering the second grade and was pretty nervous. He didn’t know what to expect this year but was really hoping for the best.
Charlie is smart. He always tried hard in school and looked forward to being rewarded for doing something well. Last year, when his mom went to prison, Charlie had to go through a lot of changes. He had to move in with his grandma and started going to a different school. He didn’t have all the school supplies he needed, either. He remembered feeling nervous, confused, shameful, and unprepared on the first day of school last year. This year, his grandma brought home a red notebook, a 12-pack of #2 pencils, and a box of crayons. Knowing money was tight, Charlie resolved to make the best of it and put everything into his fraying backpack. He was thankful for his grandma and what she was able to get for him, but he also remembered feeling small when he saw what all the other kids had in their new backpacks on the first day of school last year. It just never seemed fair.
The night before school, Charlie went to bed extra early and tried to get to sleep while wondering what would be on the menu for lunch. Now, it’s 8:30am and Charlie is getting on the bus to go to school, hoping that this year will be better.
As summer starts coming to a close, most parents begin preparing children for the new school year. They buy new pants, new shoes, maybe a new lunchbox or backpack and, of course, the laundry list of school supplies. For other parents and caregivers, however, “Back to school” preparations can be agonizing.
Some, like Charlie’s grandma, are unable to provide the basic school necessities for their children. Charlie is like a lot of kids who have a parent in an Alvis program. Alvis is home to a population that faces the “Back to School” fear each year. These previously incarcerated parents are working to improve their lives and the lives of their children, as well. But kids like Charlie can still experience feelings of embarrassment, confusion, shame, and worthlessness, which can lead to negative behavioral changes and poor academic performance. These children don’t deserve to start the school year with an unfair disadvantage.
Addressing the problem is the first step to fixing it. The second step is taking action. There are multiple ways to take action against the destructive cycle and provide children with a good start to a new school year. One easy action you can take is to donate to the Alvis Back to School drive.
Last year, Alvis held a backpack drive and accepted donations of backpacks and school supplies. Thanks to our amazing community, hundreds of children attended their first days of school adorned with colorful new backpacks that were filled with school supplies.
This year, we have raised our goal to prepare 700 children of Alvis clients with the tools they need to be successful students. A donation of just $30 dollars provides two children with backpacks. But truly, any donation – of money, school supplies, and/or time to come to Alvis and fill the backpacks – is greatly appreciated.
Each child and each parent face different challenges as they start the school year. There are some easy ways, however, to help. With something as fundamental as school supplies for their education, each child we work with at Alvis can start the school year on the right foot, prepared to grow to their full potential. That is the Alvis 180 degree impact.
Brandon Muetzel, Donor Relations Coordinator, is the primary author of this blog post.