Back-to-school shopping is a big business. According to the Huntington Bank Backpack Index—a collaboration between Huntington Bank and Communities in Schools—the average cost of supplies for an elementary school student in 2017 is a staggering $662. For middle school and high school, it’s $1001 and $1489, respectively.
These expenses can put a dent in the budget of any family, and they’re a real hardship for some students. To help make sure the middle and high school students in her community had the supplies necessary for the new school year, one Hawaii eighth grader started a fundraiser to help give back. Simply called Back to School Hawaii, the initiative was started by 13-year-old Kaiya Arias De Cordoba, who attends SEEQS Charter Middle School in Honolulu.
Seeing the struggle of the kids and families around her, Kaiya organized a one-day event this summer where clothing and school supplies were provided to the less fortunate students on the island of Oahu, which, according to a census report, has a high concentration of both the state’s wealthiest and poorest families.
“Maybe it’ll help them with their self-esteem and going back to school, because it is a stressful part of going back to school,” Kaiya told Hawaii Public Radio.
Kaiya’s biggest supporter is her mother, Heather, who helped organize the August clothing drive.
“What Kai is doing is a real inspiration to a lot of other kids,” Heather told HPR. “I think at their age, a lot of them are looking for something to do that’s outreach in their community but they don’t necessarily know where to go or what they’re capable of.”
In the lead-up to the group’s inaugural clothing drive, more than 1500 pounds of clothes and plenty of school necessities like binders, pens, notebooks, and highlighters were collected. The group also set up a GoFundMe page, which raised more than $1800—well over the initial $1000 goal.
The organization’s first pop-up event was held on August 25, where students and struggling families were able to grab five pieces of clothing after showing a valid school I.D. and paying a $2 cover charge. In addition, the first 60 attendees were given a new bookbag full of school supplies, which were made possible through the community’s donations.