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UC San Diego Annual School Supply Drive

Photos by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

UC San Diego Community Reaches Out Through Annual School Supply Drive

Many times, people are aware of a problem but will not instinctively make the first step toward finding a solution. Yet for the past decade, UC San Diego staff members have mobilized to make a difference for local schoolchildren as part of the campus’ annual School Supply Drive. The 10th annual drive, which recently concluded, provided each of 21 schools with up to six boxes of supplies and a large bag of clothes for students.

“We gave backpacks to students who had never had a backpack before and their collective smiles were beautiful,” said Mike Norman, an education specialist working for Rosa Parks Elementary in San Diego.

Rosa Parks Elementary, like many schools around San Diego County, educates students coming from a wide range of backgrounds. “Most were almost at a poverty level and really didn't have extra money for clothes or school supplies,” Norman explains. “The supplies definitely benefited the students in their daily learning, and equally important, socially. This would not have happened if it hadn't been for the overwhelming generosity of UC San Diego and our partnership.”

The School Supply Drive was initiated by a UC San Diego staff member who learned that local schools critically needed supplies to properly educate students. Many times these kids have never even owned a backpack or colored pencils.

“The supplies created a sense of belonging, which was so important for the students and enabled them to have pride and equal access to learning,” added Norman.

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The UC San Diego Staff Association was the project’s first sponsor and provided the funding for printing and materials so that the drive and the idea of giving back to the community become achievable. Collection boxes for donated items were distributed in departments around campus and a list of needed school supplies was provided online. The first drive occurred over the summer of 2006 and provided 13 schools with three boxes of supplies.

Since then, the School Supply Drive has taken place every summer on campus and has grown larger each year. In 2013, Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla became a sponsor, which resulted in a broader base of people supporting the effort. That same year, the drive started collecting gently used children’s clothing, along with the new school supplies, for clothing emergencies and homeless children who attend these schools. Compared to 2006 when the project first started, this year’s drive supplied twice as many schools with double the supplies—plus a bag of clothes.

“The school supply drive is a true community effort and a prime example of UC San Diego’s mission of service,” said Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “Teachers tell us that when their students receive the supplies, especially those with UC San Diego on them, they are inspired to work harder in school so they can one day attend our great university.”

Many faculty and staff, such as Martha Barry, office manager at the Office of Post Awards Financial Services at Torrey Pines Center North, have been involved with the effort for several years now. “I have a sister who is an elementary school teacher and she spends a lot of her personal money buying supplies, so this program really struck me,” said Barry. She began to get more involved, encouraging her co-workers to support the project, making sure the boxes get filled and replaced, and sharing information about the effort and results of the drive.

“People have been extremely generous,” says Barry. “The campus community really wanted to help. I think it is a wonderful program for UC San Diego to continue. It is a win-win for all.”