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Organization donates
backpacks to Forest Park schools

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Nancy Said, the principal of both the Unidos Dual Language Charter School and Hendrix Drive Elementary School, said none of her students will start the 2009-2010 school year next week without a bookbag or school supplies.

That's because the Atlanta-based, not-for-profit organization, For the Kid in All of Us, donated more than 300 bags to the two schools on Wednesday.

Unidos and Hendrix Drive Elementary School co-exist in the same building and share the same administration. The two schools have 470 students, of which approximately 75 percent receive free and reduced lunches, according to Said.

"It's just one more way we can help our parents out in these tough economic times," Said explained. "It can really be very expensive to buy backpacks and school supplies, and so, this is one way to help alleviate some of those costs."

During a school open house on Wednesday evening for both schools, members of the For the Kid in All of Us advisory board -- and employees of Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA), which is the partner in education for the schools and held its own book bag drive to support For the Kid in All of Us -- distributed many of the book bags to students.

Each bag was filled with supplies, such as pens, pencils, and paper, leading one student to exclaim, "This is heavy!" as she ran down a hall way, clinging to the straps of her new bookbag.

Andrea Criste, the chairperson of For the Kid in All of Us' Beneficiary Committee, said Hendrix Drive and Unidos are the only public schools that are receiving bags from the organization this year, out of 10 recipients. The other recipients include children's shelters and organizations that work with needy children.

For the Kid in All of Us' mission is to serve needy children around Georgia through events like the book bag collection and a toy drive, Criste said.

The bags were collected through the group's annual "Backpack in the Park" event, which was held June 28 at Piedmont Park in Atlanta. Land's End outfitters also donated 1,000 bookbags to the organization, Criste said.

Criste said Hendrix Drive and Unidos, the first Clayton County schools selected by the organization to receive bookbags, were selected after ASA representatives approached the organization on behalf of the schools this past spring. She said the organization picks schools that have Title I status, which means the majority of students qualify for the federal government's free and reduced lunch program.

"First off, they are a Title I school, and because of their relationship with ASA, we knew this a school that could really benefit from this," she said.

If a school or children's assistance organization is selected to receive bookbags, it must send representatives to volunteer as workers at the "Backpack in the Park," Criste said. Principal Nancy Said and several Hendrix Drive and Unidos staff members, as well as parents, volunteered at the event.

"We know a lot of families in these tough economic times are not able to purchase school supplies on their own, so we wanted to take some of the burden off of them," Criste said.

Kate Modolo, a spokesperson for ASA, said the airline has been a partner in education for Hendrix Drive Elementary School for several years. Every year in December, the airline flies 25 Hendrix Drive students, who read the most books during a school reading campaign, to Jekyll Island on an ASA plane dubbed "Santa's Special Sleigh," for a day trip to learn about Sea Turtles.

Because Unidos, which was started in 2006, is in the same building as Hendrix Drive, it is also a beneficiary of the airline's support, Modolo said.

Parents said they were grateful to the airline and For The Kid in All of Us for offering the free bookbags to the school. Jennifer Minor, brought her son, Evan, 5, and her fiancé's daughter, Rashyia Bell, 6, both students at Unidos, to the school on Wednesday night for the open house, and said she was caught off guard by the free book bags and school supplies.

"Right now, everybody at our house is unemployed, so this means a lot to us," Minor said. "We're really grateful for this. I'm usually the one helping other people out, and here I am turning out to be the person who is receiving the help."