Pushing for Change Through Community Action

Posted on 08/07/2015 @ 12:45 AM

Tags: education, intern, civic engagement, policy

By: Samantha Preciado, Policy and Legislation Intern, LULAC National

Did you know that there are more than 1.2 million homeless children and youth attending public schools in the United States? In fact, according to the National Center for Homeless Education there were 259,656 homeless students in California during the 2012-2013 school year. The number of homeless children in the past couple of years has skyrocketed not only in California, but also across the nation. With the 2015 fall school year fast-approaching, our communities must get involved to ensure these students are prepared for a successful academic year.

Operation Backpack is one of the many different volunteer programs that you can get involved in to help homeless families and children. The annual community involvement program is dedicated to helping kids start their school year prepared, with all the new school supplies necessary to ensure educational success. Operation Backpack volunteers assemble brand new backpacks and donate school supplies to kids ranging in grade levels from pre-K to high school seniors. The program encourages contributors to host backpack drives at churches, schools, offices and other institutions to help collect backpacks and supplies for those who cannot afford them. By hosting a drive, more individuals are given the opportunity to donate supplies, making this program a true community effort.

This is the second year my family and I have been involved with Operation Backpack through UC Davis Medical Center in California where my mother works. Last year, my mother’s work hosted a backpack drive that resulted in the donation of over 40 backpacks just from our family alone. My sister, brother, mother and I assembled 15 backpacks and even more were donated by our friends and extended family.

We advertised the backpack drive to our extended family and friends through Facebook, Instagram and text messages, receiving a great response from many people who were more than happy to help contribute supplies and backpacks. The feedback we received from our family and friends was so overwhelmingly supportive, that we had people dropping off backpacks on our doorstep.

Part of LULAC’s mission is to advance the educational attainment of the Hispanic population, and as an intern at the LULAC National Office, I learned there are many different ways to do this. While policies are important to addressing systemic issues in the educational system, we also need community efforts to remedy some of the disparities we see on the local level. There are many programs that can help homeless kids across the United States, like Operation Backpack, that can make a difference in a student’s educational outcome whether in kindergarten or high school. This issue affects more than one million kids and families across the nation, and I encourage the community to help more children by giving them the necessary tools to ensure success in the classroom and beyond.

Samantha Preciado is a Policy and Legislation Intern at the LULAC National Office in Washington, D.C. She is currently working towards getting a Master's in Political Science and Government from California State University-Northridge.

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