The new school year is less than a month old, but already some students’ lives have been transformed.
That’s because the Foundation for Fort Mill Schools, through its partnership with other local non-profits and an online retail giant based here, made sure that some potentially at-risk students got off to a good start. The Foundation made sure students from families that can’t afford all the required school supplies had everything they needed from the opening bell Aug. 15.
“The most significant thing is it allows children to be ready to receive knowledge from day one,” said Elizabeth Hart, a guidance counselor at Fort Mill Elementary School.
“No one succeeds at their job by showing up unprepared. So why show up to school lacking the necessities?” Hart said.
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“School supplies should never hold a child back from learning. A pencil in their hand is power. It shows the teacher they are ready to learn and says to their peers that they are their equal. All children have varying obstacles along their path. And having the appropriate supplies in their desk should never be one of them.”
Lynn Ringley, who recently finished her term as executive director of the Foundation for Fort Mill Schools, said an initiative called Classroom Ready helped equip approximately 500 students for the start of school this year. Ringley didn’t have a dollar amount handy to quantify the donations collected, but she said last year, the Foundation was able to provide more than $30,000 worth of supplies to students in need.
In addition to individual donations, the Foundation was aided by Shutterfly, the internet-based company that has its headquarters in Fort Mill, and received grants from Springs-Close Foundation and the Fort Mill Rotary Club.
“These grant awards and the incredible support of our generous community makes this program work,” Ringley said.
Classroom Ready actually continues throughout the year to keep up with a growing student population – the district has about 14,000 students this year – that has various needs after day one. Residents, groups and businesses are always welcome to contribute supplies, which are kept in storage in a facility the Foundation named “Ms. Moore's Supply Room” in memory of long-time Fort Mill educator Susan Moore.”
As the schoolyear progresses, “We work directly with guidance counselors to provide materials to individual students,” Ringley said.
Hart said making sure students are fully equipped helps in ways some people may not be aware of.
“When students are anxious, stressed and have their minds on something other than school, they don't do as well as they could,” she said. “Placing basic supplies in the hands of students keeps them in the classroom and allows them to focus on the teacher rather than explaining or asking for something they don't have. And that, to me as a counselor, is a way to show that this is a step toward a child growing in education.”
She praised the Foundation for setting up a mechanism that makes it easy for people to make donations and for serving as a backstop for kids who may need one.
“The Foundation for Fort Mill Schools does this in such a beautiful and streamlined way,” she said.
“They allow people in our community who want to help to do so. It's unbelievable the amount of folks in our community who want to help children succeed. A child's self-esteem greatly benefits when parents, the community and their educators show interest and care in what the child is doing.”
The point can’t be made enough, Hart said, that supplies are needed all through the school year and that any student in any community could be in need at any time regardless of economic background.
“Everyone is going through something,” she said.
“Financial hardships can be due to many things. So please do not assume that children can't possibly need anything to be successful in the classroom, even in Fort Mill. School supplies are one way to keep children on a routine and allow them to be confident every day.”
In a call for “for everyone in Fort Mill to be a part of that empowerment in some way through the supply drive,” Hart wants the public to know there’s a story behind every student in need. It’s part of the pith she made at Shutterfly earlier this year.
“For many students, even in Fort Mill, there is no ‘back to school’ shopping trip for supplies. No new lunchbox with a note tucked inside waiting on the counter. There is no list, tacked to the refrigerator of school supply ‘wishes,’ let alone what the child may need. I have families enrolling all the time who are moving to our area for a better life and education for their children. And to be able to give one of these families, who financially cannot provide the necessities, a backpack full of tools, is one of the most empowering things we can do.”
Want to help?
To learn more about supporting the Foundation for Fort Mill School, call 803-548-5559 or visit foundationforfortmillschools.org. If you want to donate supplies, but not sure what’s needed, here’s a website where you can view a list of school supplies by school and grade: teacherlists.com