Pack-a-Backpack Benefits Homeless Kids

Angelica Fraire

Glendale Community College’s students, faculty and staff came together to help out homeless children while demonstrating the importance of volunteerism at the community level as well as around the nation.

The college’s Student Center held a ceremony on Sept. 11, from 10 to 10:30 a.m. in which the Center for Student Involvement (CSI) presented School on Wheels with 48 backpacks to children in kindergarten through 12th grade.

School on Wheels is a non-profit organization established in 1993 located in Los Angeles and in New York.

“The students, my co-worker and I came together and brainstormed to come up with the idea [of donating backpacks with school supplies],” Hoover Zariani, GCC director of Student Involvement, said.

After two weeks of selling bagels, CSI ended up with $300. According to Zariani, “People didn’t want the bagel [and] instead wanted to donate five, 10 dollars.”

The money was used to buy supplies and later the backpacks were filled with “basic things [because if the kids] don’t have [the] essentials, [they] don’t do well in school,” Zariani said. He was proud to mention that in all there were 600 items donated.

Ryan Locante, director of operations for the nonprofit organization said, “Tutoring is a big part of what we do, but we also help with school enrollments, school uniforms, and of course, backpacks and school supplies that come from donations like the one we received from GCC. Last year we served 5,000 kids. We tutored 2,000.”

The organization gets in contact with homeless kids through school districts and shelters, but Locante said, “We also find some on our own doing outreach at hotels, motels and resource centers, or by simply talking to families on the streets of Skid Row.”

Not all the causes are clear as to why these children in the program are homeless. However, Locante stated that “some of the reasons we’ve heard stem from economic issues, home foreclosures, bad luck, domestic violence, parental mental and physical illness, and parent drug addiction and alcoholism.

“Some of the children do end up chronically homeless.but we do hear about a lot of families receiving Section 8 Vouchers to help with permanent housing, which is a start.”

Section 8 Vouchers is a program that allows low-income families to afford housing. These vouchers are federally funded and are only provided in the United States.

When asked where the children go when they are not in school or where they sleep, Locante said, “I’m sure that this is different for every family, but .they sleep in homeless shelters, motels, hotels, cars, doubled-up with family or friends and sometimes on the street.”

Zariani said that CSI is going to “try to have a theme for each event … we want to make it an annual event.”

Zariani gave the suggestion of having a “token drive” for one of the fundraising ideas because he realized there is a token problem, therefore some kids “are late or don’t come [to school and] obviously they don’t learn.” These tokens are coins that people can use as a way to pay for bus fares on metro busses.

Zariani said that students, faculty and staff can still donate at any time throughout the year because CSI wants to make it an annual event.

When asked what kinds of things people could donate, Zariani said “pens, pencils, paper . obviously markers for the younger kids . but people don’t realize that crayons are in big demand.”

Anything a child can benefit from in grades K-12 is more than welcome.
Zariani and the students involved in this event want to make this an annual event to celebrate National Day of Service on Sept. 11.

The Center for Student Involvement is located next to the cafeteria on the second floor.