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Help local students get off to a Running Starting for School

Help local students get off to a Running Starting for School

The back-to-school rush is filled with the quintessential sights and sounds of childhood — think of the first perfectly-sharpened pencils or the process of filling a new backpack for the first time.

“We can all connect to that feeling,” said Melissa Brandt, Transitions and Fostering Connections Coordinator for Rochester Public Schools. “We’ve worked with kids that were so excited by the smell of new crayons.”

For hundreds of underprivileged students, however, that excitement is often replaced with anxiety as the school year nears.

To make sure those students have what they need, the United Way of Olmsted County partners with RPS — and other districts across the county — to provide more than 2,000 students with backpacks, notebooks, pencils, and other necessary supplies for the school year. The Running Start For School program, as its known, started collecting donations June 10.

Brandt said the feeling of not having everything you need is something everyone can relate to, regardless of age.

“If you’re heading to a meeting and don’t have everything you need, there’s a pit of anxiety in your stomach. It’s the same way for these kids, ” said Brandt. “But for some of them, we’re removing that feeling, and that’s incredibly important.”

The program primarily serves elementary school students, who need more supplies on a year-to-year basis than older students.

After supplies are donated to the United Way, they assemble the school kits and send them to school administrators, who get the supplies into the hands of students who need them most.

It is a process driven by the work of hundreds of volunteers.

“Volunteers are the absolute lifeblood of this program,” said Brandt. “It’s what keeps this going. It would be impossible to do what we do without their time and effort.”

While the majority of Rochester schools start the 2019-20 academic year on September 3, Longfellow Elementary starts their 45/15 schedule on July 24. Brandt said Running Start For School will be able to provide students with supplies before then.

United Way collection boxes are placed all around Rochester [view locations here] and Brandt said district administration centers like the Edison and Northrop buildings also act as collection sites.

For more information on the program, and to donate online, you can visit United Way of Olmsted County’s website.

Isaac Jahns is back in Rochester this summer reporting for Med City Beat. The Mayo High School grad studies journalism at the University of Missouri. His main passions are writing music and telling people’s stories.

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