9/11 Day of Service and Donation Drive Runs Until the End of the Month

Louise Andersson, Staff Writer

To observe the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the Center for Student Involvement is working with School on Wheels, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing homeless children with educational materials and tutoring, for the fifth annual “Pack a Backpack” event on campus.

In 2009, Hoover Zariani, director for student involvement, and Nane Kakosian, a student services coordinator, thought of ways to honor individuals and families affected by the 2001 terror attacks. Concluding that a great way to start was to help young children, they came up with the concept of “Pack a Backpack.”

In collaboration with School on Wheels, they hold fundraisers and collect school supplies. School on Wheels reaches out to children in homeless shelters, foster homes, parked cars in which children live, motels, and domestic violence shelters. The organization also recruits and trains tutors who can offer help and guidance.

According to Andrea Gomez, one of the student ambassadors for CSI, spreading word about the event is the most difficult part; however, once it is publicized enough, more people get involved.

“There are a lot of people interested,” said Gomez. “You just have to find a way to reach them.”

The cooperation between CSI and School on Wheels has been active for five years. Advertising for the event begins in August so that they can collect as many donations as possible before Sept. 11; however, contributions are still accepted until the end of the month.

“We never reject donations,” said Kakosian.

Donations can be dropped off at the CSI office in the Sierra Madre building, room 267, during office hours. The office is open Mondays to Thursdays between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m and on Fridays from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

All kinds of backpacks and school supplies are accepted; however, they must be new and unused. Kakosian said that because homeless children are already underprivileged, providing them with new materials is like a “token.” Monetary donations are collected as well, but even something as simple as pencil is helpful.

“The potential of a brand new backpack filled with school supplies is a powerful talisman for a child with so little else in their life,” said Catherine Meek, the executive director of School on Wheels.

Students can also contribute by volunteering as tutors. CSI helps train students in the process of becoming tutors. According to Gomez, it is a very eye opening experience for many students, whose unconscious biases toward homeless families are demolished.

GCC faculty and staff members have also been involved with the event, as some professors offer extra credit for their contributions to “Pack a Backpack.”

Jocelyn Heaney, an adjunct English professor, said that although she would rather students volunteered on their own initiatives, she still offers extra credit as an incentive.

Gomez described the extra credit opportunity as “win-win situation” because first-time donations often lead to several more.

The turnout for the charity drive reached beyond everybody’s expectations. Over the last five years, CSI has received thousands of dollars in donations. During their most successful years, they were able to donate more than 50 backpacks full of supplies to School on Wheels.

“With the help of wonderful friends like Glendale Community College, School on Wheels is able to bring smiles to the faces of hundreds of homeless students in Los Angeles County,” said Meek.

Despite their success, CSI aims to accomplish more. After every year’s event, they think of and plan ways to increase collections for the following year. Their goal this year is to inform more people and they will organize a muffin sale on Sept. 11 to raise money. Last year, they managed to raise $200 to $300.

Other non-profit organizations will visit GCC in Sept. 11 to recruit volunteers for their causes, using the anniversary of the terror attack as a platform to spread good deeds around the campus and the community.

Zariani said that although memorials are usually sad events, they want Pack a Backpack and the volunteer fair on campus to honor the victims of the attacks.

“This is actually something where you can have a positive impact in the memory of those people,” he said. “It makes you think that those people didn’t just die in vain, that we are remembering them by doing something of service.”