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‘Tools for Schools’ helps area students

In an effort to reach the community and motivate underprivileged children, three USF organizations are teaming up for a “Tools for Schools” supplies drive. The USF Office for Community Relations, Engaging Latin Communities for Education and the Institute on Black Life, are asking faculty and staff to donate school supplies that will later be put into backpacks and distributed to students at local schools. The drive will continue until July 15.

“We’re doing this because there are students, both elementary and middle school students in the Tampa Bay area beginning each year without the tools necessary, even basic tools, such as a pencil, to achieve educational success,” said R. Colette Glover-Hannah, executive director of the Office for Community Relations.

“We’re asking the faculty here to look back and think about their school years and about how much they would have achieved if they didn’t have even a pencil through those years,” Glover-Hannah said. “We’re trying to appeal to them that way and are asking for donations.”

The organizations set up donation boxes throughout campus and 18 USF representatives responsible for recruiting donations for its box. Glover-Hannah said they recently decided to award a free dinner to the representative’s team who generated the most supplies.

She said they’re also welcoming donations from students, but they will especially need help after the drive to distribute supplies into the backpacks.

A total of 360 students will receive the bags of supplies. Forty bags will be given to a liaison at each middle and elementary school participating, and the liaison is expected to distribute the bags to the students who they think need them the most.

The schools participating were already partnered with the school in some way — the middle schools through ENLACE and the elementary schools thorough the Institute on Black Life, Glover-Hannah said.

“We’ve learned that many students in our schools have needs that they can’t meet,” said Donna Parino, ENLACE’s coordinator. “Many teachers go and spend their own money to help their kids.”

She also said the group is donating 280 Spanish-English dictionaries to the project for English as a Second Language classes.

ENLACE is sponsored by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg foundation However, they want to continue their contribution after that money expires, so the USF Latin Community Advisory committee has agreed to donate Spanish-English dictionaries next year, if this project continues.

Glover-Hannah said if the program is successful, she hopes to continue it next year.

Clara Cobb, program director of the Institute on Black Life, said she was looking for a way to link the university with the community, and this project seemed like a good idea.

“If we help these students early on to succeed, they may get an opportunity to attend here,” Cobb said.

She said the students would be motivated to excel if someone’s helping them because they will know someone’s counting on them to do well. Further, she said, the students will remember who helped them and may choose to come here in their later years.

Parino said the liaisons will tell the students the supplies were a gift from USF and she thinks the students will take care of them and make good use of them.

Geoffrey Okogbaa, director of the Institute on Black Life, said it is part of the university’s mission to become part of the community.

“As a research university, we generate knowledge here and that knowledge has to find it’s way into the community so we can let them know that we are here to serve them, helping them solve problems,” Okogbaa said. “If we don’t do that, we aren’t fulfilling our mission.”

He also said it’s important for students to get involved with the area’s schools.

“Because of the generation gap, it inspires them more to see people closer to their own age helping,” Okogbaa said. “Our hope is that students will take this on, provide incentive for them to try and do better.”

Representatives from the three organizations agreed that it is the university’s responsibility to help the community in this way.

“An institution of this magnitude has a multitude of resources that can help these middle and elementary schools,” Cobb said. “I see the education institution as a family and USF is the big brother and we have to help our little brothers and sisters in the elementary, middle and high schools.”