Volunteers fill backpacks with school supplies for incoming Afghan refugee children in Salt Lake City on Tuesday. (Ashley Fredde, KSL.com)
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SALT LAKE CITY – The Salt Lake Teachers’ Federation has purchased and filled 546 backpacks of school supplies for Afghan students who will soon fill classrooms across the state in the hopes that it will bring “a sense of membership”.
A group of about 30 volunteers from the American Federation of Teachers’ Federation sections of Front Wasatch, the surrounding community and school districts gathered on Tuesday to fill the backpacks.
Among the volunteers was Salt Lake City Council District 1 candidate Blake Perez, who said he learned of the event by knocking on doors. Perez met a family from the neighborhood who were helping a refugee family.
âIt was kind of a sign for me to go out and do that and help,â Perez said.
The effort began when Nadia Rockwell, vice-president of the Salt Lake Teachers’ Federation, applied for a $ 25,000 grant offered to branches by the national union. The executive council of the American Federation of Teachers allocated funds that would have been used for travel during the COVID-19 pandemic as grants for projects that would welcome children back to school.
âI thought if the kids had the supplies they need to go back to school, I think they would feel better. The Salt Lake City School District is doing a really good job of making sure the kids have it. what they need in class, but I think it’s one more step so the kids can have it in their homes, âsaid Rockwell.
Once the chapter received the money, the leaders quickly requested a wish list from the school district refugee coordinator. With a list of items in hand, Chapter members purchased the items and began to compile them into backpacks for delivery the following week. Each refugee student in the Salt Lake City School District will receive a backpack, and 150 students at Utah International Charter School will also receive one.
Backpacks were stocked for elementary and high school students, with a variety of items for each. Pencils, erasers, highlighters, binders, paper, colored pencils, crayons and masks were placed in backpacks, but one item excited Rockwell the most: science calculators for students of grades six to twelve.
âI’m just looking at what I had as a student, and my parents provided me with backpacks and calculators and whatever I needed, and I was successful. As a teacher in in the Salt Lake school district, I saw kids who didn’t have all of these things, and I think sometimes that limits them, âRockwell said.
As the district strives to help provide basic necessities in the classroom, Rockwell thought that providing students with their own supplies could help student success. Plus, she thought the supplies could show students “that they are important and appreciated in our community.”