3,000 Ventura County students start the year with backpacks filled with school supplies after ‘Stuff the Bus’ campaign

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VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. – Roughly 3,000 Ventura County students who are experiencing homelessness will head to school with new backpacks stuffed to the brim with essential school supplies thanks to United Way of Ventura County’s ‘Stuff the Bus’ campaign.

“For so many of our families the little money they have may be better spent on food, paying rent or a new pair of shoes for the school year rather than backpacks and school supplies,” said Susan Englund, vice president of community impact for United Way of Ventura County.

“We’re helping ease the financial burden on parents so the students can start the school year with everything they need. These supplies also promote learning, build self-esteem, and help our youth stay in school.”

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Many of the students who received the backpacks live in cars, trailers, shelters, couch surf, or in overcrowded settings, according to United Way. Many students faced additional challenges during the pandemic while grappling with the challenges associated with virtual learning while dealing with loss of work in their family, said Cathi Nye, coordinator for the homeless education program at the Ventura County Office of Education.

“The struggle was really illustrated at its highest point during the years of the pandemic,” she said.

“These students have been through so much. Every day they are worried about necessities like food and shelter — and then they’re facing a long list of school supplies to get ready for school. Having them walk into school with a backpack and all the supplies they need is really empowering, helps them feel confident and gets them excited about learning.”

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The backpacks were delivered to more than 200 county schools and were made possible with the help of community members and volunteers from local businesses who stepped up to help stuff the backpacks.

The backpacks were delivered to the schools to distribute to students in grades kindergarten through 12 prior to the first day of school.

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