Back-to-school season can be exciting, but for those with limited resources, accessing even the most basic supplies can be stressful. That’s where efforts like United Way Bay Area’s (UWBA) annual back-to-school backpack campaign can make a huge difference in the lives of students.
“When you think about a backpack giveaway for families, it's more than just a backpack,” said Erica Barajas, Program Director at Compass Family Services. “For families, it really makes a difference in making ends meet, and for children, it's a positive starting point to the school year.”
When you think about a backpack giveaway for families, it's more than just a backpack. For families, it really makes a difference in making ends meet, and for children, it's a positive starting point to the school year.
Compass Family Services is a San Francisco non-profit organization that supports families who are unhoused and those at risk of becoming unhoused with housing stability, economic self-sufficiency, and well-being. Every school year they partner with UWBA to provide backpacks and school supplies to students and families.
This year, another batch of backpacks went to SparkPoint Basic Needs Center at City College of San Francisco (CCSF).
Dr. Tessa Henderson-Brown, Associate Dean of Equity and Director of SparkPoint at CCSF, said the center’s mission is to help meet the basic needs of students of the community college who are low-income and housing and food insecure so they can focus on their education and accomplish their dreams.
SparkPoint CCSF supports students in areas of life from housing and food security to basic healthcare and mental health services.
“We want to make sure that we're providing support for our students where they have the most vital needs, so that they can really focus on their educational goals,” Dr. Henderson-Brown emphasized.
Alicia Fausto, Basic Needs Coordinator at SparkPoint, said she enjoys her day-to-day work.
“One thing that inspires me about working at SparkPoint is having a direct connection with students, meeting them where they're at, and watching them grow as they are connected to various resources and how they mold and develop in their journeys as they work towards their academic goals,” shared Fausto.
Teresa Saunders, Intake/Outreach Specialist at SparkPoint, said she loves her job supporting students because she herself attended CCSF.
“It's a place where if you need something, we will help you,” Saunders emphasized.
This year, autonomous driving technology company Waymo, which operates the Waymo One ride-hailing service in San Francisco, partnered with UWBA to deliver backpacks to Compass Family Services and SparkPoint at CCSF. Team members from Waymo also helped prepare backpacks for delivery.
“We were so excited here at SparkPoint CCSF to welcome Waymo and the Waymo vehicles coming on campus to deliver a donation of backpacks,” said Fausto.
Waymo’s fully autonomous driving technology has the potential to improve road safety while safely and efficiently delivering people and things to their destinations. Waymo also has a long record of helping local nonprofits with charitable deliveries and backpack deliveries, saving them time, resources, and staffing.
“Today was great,” Barajas shared after the delivery. “We had Waymo come up with multiple vehicles to provide backpacks and we had a bunch of families show up and pick up backpacks.”
Fausto emphasized that the backpacks Waymo helped deliver will make a big difference for CCSF students as they start the year: “The backpacks that we are receiving from Waymo offer a way for students to transport their various school supplies and to make sure that they have the tools that they need to start strong.”
To learn more about how you can help Bay Area families and individuals meet basic needs, find jobs, access affordable housing and become financially stable, please visit UWBA’s Ways to Give section of their website.