What does a backpack really mean for students heading back to school? Aside from a place to collect your favorite pins and patches and store all your important school supplies, that is.
A backpack really means belonging.
As one AT&T employee said, “Many of us come from places, or at least knew someone who may have had unmet needs in school. A student always short a pencil because theirs was shared with three siblings. Someone who didn’t have paper or the means to get it even after the first two weeks of school.”
With a backpack comes the feeling that a student belongs in the classroom. Being prepared with all the right supplies on the first day of school means avoiding stares when you walk in the classroom carrying all your books in your hands or the quiet whisper to your desk mate to borrow the right kind of writing instrument for the big test.
With belonging comes confidence, and with confidence comes a world of possibilities.
It’s this world of possibilities we had in mind when we embarked on a three-phase campaign this summer to bring students across the country the essential school supplies and digital resources they need to have a successful school year.
This effort, in total, brought together the volunteer power of several thousand AT&T employees across 24 markets in conjunction with over 25 local community organizations to pack and deliver nearly 17,000 backpacks stuffed with school supplies for students who need it most.
That’s real impact for the communities we live and work in every single day.
As we kicked off Phase One, employees took to an online digital platform to write encouraging messages to students to start the school year on the right note. One employee wrote to a student:
“You can be anything you put your mind to! If you can dream it, you can achieve it! Have a wonderful school year and shoot for the stars!”
In total, more than 6,000 employees wrote nearly 16,000 cards to share with students across the country as they got ready to begin classes again this year.
In Phase Two, employees joined one another at events across the country to fill the backpacks with words of encouragement along with school supplies and digital resources. School supplies included folders, paper, pencils, a flash drive, headphones and other essentials.
In total, employee volunteers filled 16,700 backpacks with school supplies, ready to be delivered to students.
Phase Three is where it all came together. We worked with local organizations, who know the needs of their communities best, to host events across the country to deliver the backpacks and supplies to students and their families.
You could see the excitement in students’ and families’ faces when they picked up their backpacks, ready to take on a new school year with confidence.
For some students, like those who gathered at the Rincon Education Department in California, the backpack distribution event came with an added bonus: free computers. To further fill their backpacks, 500 refurbished laptops were distributed to students and families from five tribal nations to better connect to online learning.
We also wanted to make sure those students who received computers felt comfortable navigating the internet when they went home. To help encourage further adoption of the internet and the opportunities it has to offer, we also included information on skills-building resources such as The Achievery, AT&T’s free digital learning platform, as well as other digital literacy courses.
Both the backpack and laptop distributions are part of AT&T’s commitment to address the digital divide through investment in internet accessibility, affordability and the safe use of technology.
From Atlanta to Chicago, Detroit to Cleveland, Los Angeles to Dallas, students all across the country are walking into school this year with the right supplies and a backpack full of confidence. With school back in session, we know our work isn’t done. We’ll continue connecting students and families to the resources they need as we keep working to help bridge the digital divide. Together, we can bring a world of possibilities to life.