Almost as soon as we’ve settled into summer, “Back to School” ads begin clamoring for our attention (and for our wallets). In fact, the average cost of school supplies is approximately $40 – and that doesn’t even include clothes or school activities.

Within McKinney’s city limits we have many families in need, living either below the poverty line or hovering precariously above it, as well as a large middle-class population for whom $40 per child can also represent a challenge. Consider a household in which one parent loses a job, or one in which a family member develops a chronic medical condition that puts a strain on financial resources, or a single mother raising children on her own. Every penny still counts. The national economy is making signs of progress, but we’re not there yet.

“Things are much better than they used to be, but we’re still feeling the effects of the recession,” says P.J. Holland-Rasor, McKinney ISD Director of Counseling and Student Support. “Some of our middle-class families are struggling.”

In short, we have families in need and McKinney offers great avenues to help our neighbors prepare for another school year.

One of the easiest ways to lend your support is by making a donation to McKinney ISD. Call 469-302-4036 to arrange a time to drop off your donation. Check out their wish list below. It’s important to note that community needs reach far beyond school supplies. Monetary donations also are welcomed to assist with student clothing and shoes, field trips, after-school activities and even the fifth grade overnight camping trip. To make a monetary donation, simply make your check out to McKinney ISD and specify “student needs” in the “For” field. “We’re here to assist where there’s a gap, and we’ll get your donations out to the campuses that need them,” Holland-Rasor says.

The MISD Council of PTAs also is one of your best bets. The Council created a sister school system in which the city’s Title 1, or underprivileged, schools are paired with a more affluent school for such efforts as “Fill a School Bus” with back-to-school supplies, monetary donations, Angel Tree donations later in the year and others. While these events generate much-needed resources for the Title 1 schools, participation varies and gaps remain.

“The Council takes a ‘whole district’ view,” says Stephanie Frasca, board member of the MISD Council of PTAs. “We’ve got the largest network of involved and committed parents. We really have our finger on the pulse of McKinney schools; we’re close to the ground.” At back-to-school time, “some Title 1 schools do great, but some don’t. If we have the resources, we can fill the gaps where we see them. We just want to be able to go to our Title 1 schools and give them what they need.”

 
McKinney Online - backpack

Photo by Katie Soyka

“We’re starting to come together as a community, talk, coordinate and distribute resources,” says Sylvia Blair, Community Liaison for the McKinney Independent School District, who divides her time between Evans and Faubion middle schools and refers to her job as “a calling.” Being a community liaison gives her the opportunity to work closely with students of many backgrounds who just require some extra support; whether it’s a new binder, a snack, an article of clothing or just a supportive ear. Blair recalls an instance in which a McKinney church donated new backpacks filled with school supplies to local middle school students – and each backpack came attached with a note of encouragement for a successful school year. “The look on these kids’ faces when they get a backpack and a note ... you would have thought they were handed a hundred-dollar bill,” she says.

Speaking of churches, a lot of churches “adopt” schools in McKinney, and they donate school supplies, mentors, reading help, even party supplies. Not sure if your church has an adoptee school? Ask – and if they don’t, contact 3e McKinney (3eMcKinney.com), which partners with churches for short- and long-term volunteer opportunities.

Volunteer McKinney works side-by-side with local nonprofits and groups by providing volunteer recruitment, leadership events, volunteer management training and consulting. Visit the Volunteer page at volunteermckinney.org and search “In Kind” to see a list of items needed.

If you can lend a hand – no matter how large or small – you’ll make an impact more profound than you’ll ever realize.

Back-to-School Wish List

  • New backpacks; used backpacks tend to fall apart quickly, so new ones are preferred
  • Drawstring backpacks
  • 2-, 3- and 4-inch binders; 4-inch binders are required for the AVID program, which helps disadvantaged students with college dreams achieve their potential
  • Zippered, 3-hole pencil pouches, preferably cloth/canvas or vinyl
  • Index pages with tab dividers
  • 3x5 index cards
  • Composition binders (with the black-and-white covers)
  • Bic Crystal pens
  • Sharpies — medium and fine point
  • Posterboard and tri-fold boards for projects
  • Earbuds for use with schoolowned iPods and iPads
  • USB flash drives

 

About the author: Courtney Roush is a McKinney-based freelance writer and mom to a daughter and son who are headed back to start fourth and second grades.