'Stuff the Bus' moves up the North Shore
The rain last week may have moved the festivities inside Minnehaha Elementary School in Two Harbors, but it didn't change the reason officials from Lake Superior School District, Superior School District, local governments and Head of the Lakes United Way (HLUW) had gathered.
The different groups had come together to kick off the "Stuff the Bus" campaign to collect school supplies for the upcoming academic year for students in need. The program has existed in Superior for years, but this is the first time HLUW has conducted the campaign in partnership with the LSSD. One of the biggest needs for students are backpacks, but Stuff the Bus is also collecting disinfectant wipes, notebooks, pencils, crayons and other basic school supplies.
"Stuff the Bus really places focus on one of United Way's impact areas, education," said Michelle Ruszat, HLUW community campaign coordinator for Superior/Douglas County and North Shore communities. "Many incredible people, businesses and organizations are working together to show students and their families that we support their education and want them to succeed academically."
LSSD superintendent Bill Crandall said the number of at risk students on the North Shore can range from 20 percent of high school students to as much as 40 percent at the elementary level.
Drop off locations have been set up at businesses around the school district with locations at Super One, The Lake Bank, Castle Danger Brewery and Two Harbors Federal Credit Union in Two Harbors and Zups in Silver Bay.
"With the option of different community centers as drop off locations, just that support that they are showing our students providing them with their needed resources to be able to start school on a good note," Crandall said. "All of our kids need to have the same benefits that every school is required to have as far as getting the basic needs met like having a backpack so they don't stand out because they walk to school empty handed."
HLUW and SSD started the Stuff the Bus campaign about 10 years ago and it has proved to be a successful partnership, according to SSD administrator Janna Stevens.
"It was really homegrown in Superior but we could really see that people wanted to take care of our kids whether they were in Superior, Duluth, Two Harbors or the Lake Superior community," Stevens said. "The whole purpose is to take care of our kids so when they come to school they feel prepared, that they don't feel that they stand out because they don't have the funds to have a backpack or a new box of crayons. It's very nice that our community understands that they need our support and rally around them."
Ruszat said that families spend up to $200 per student on school supplies at the beginning of each year and Stuff the Bus aims to eliminate the financial burden on lower income households. The campaign will continue through Aug. 25. For more information, visit www.hlunitedway.org/event.
"When children don't have basic tools required in the classroom, they can feel frustrated, ashamed and unprepared," Ruszat said. "Stuff the Bus reminds us that we can all support our students by helping them be ready on day one of the school year."