Students need supplies, fast tech to kick off new school year

With school bells already ringing, parents and students are back to their regular routine of getting to bed early, limiting screen time and setting up homework stations to ensure this school year is off to a great start. And although routine and stability are contributors to a student’s success, the greatest indicator is rooted in their backpacks.

According to Backpacks USA, arriving at school equipped with the proper supplies for the school day helps students feel confident in their ability to function and succeed in the classroom. Students who acquire the resources to utilize without depending on others are able to achieve added independence and confidence in their academics.

There is great value in being prepared. That is why since 2015, I have worked in collaboration with many organizations to improve access to school supplies for students in my district. Our efforts help students as they get ready for the next school year and allow parents to cross off their list one of the many back-to-school “must-have” items.

Every year, our office combs through the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) Economically Disadvantaged Status Reports to identify schools and students in Senate District 29 in need of support as they head back to the classroom. Based on these reports, we work with our region’s school districts to identify the tangible items each student will need for a successful school day –– including highlighters, crayons, pens, and tech gear like earbuds or headphones.

Along with organizations dedicated to equipping students for success, like AT&T, GECU. Marathon Petroleum, Target, Walmart, PepsiCo, The Borderplex Alliance, Texas Gas Service, and the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, we collected and gave away these supplies as well as backpacks in which to carry them. And we didn’t stick them with a boring bag they wouldn’t want to hang in their cubby! We went for the fun designs and colors for students to choose from! This year we scored 3,151 backpacks. We geared efforts to students registered at Presidio Elementary School and others located in Senate District 29. We understand the stress on these students and their families is very real.

Now more than ever, families in rural Texas need relief from the rising costs of living and school supplies. Taking one essential burden off a child’s and a parent’s plate is significant. In addition to providing our elementary students with gear to use in school, local leaders are also working to meet the needs of older students –– many of whom are more dependent on technical tools to manage their education. These students need access to high-speed internet connections to manage assignments online, conduct research, submit their work electronically and more.

To that end, I want to remind our West Texas families that the federal government has unveiled a new Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) to help ensure households can access the broadband they need for work, school, healthcare and more. Coupled with some internet provider-based programs, the ACP could bring the cost of internet access for qualifying households to $0 per month. This is great news for our students as they return to school and continue to depend on a robust and reliable internet.

In closing, all students in our community deserve the same opportunity as their peers to obtain the school supplies they need to feel confident and be successful. I wish all our students, teachers and support staff the very best in the 2022-2023 school year.