We expect our education system to help equip youth for successful lives in society. Fortunately, generous people and organizations have recognized that equipping youth for success in school is vitally important too. Locally, students and their families can get a helping hand every August when Youth Advisory Committee members from the Four County Community Foundation (4CCF) and Lapeer County Community Foundation (LCCF) spend time distributing backpacks filled with school supplies. Some were distributed at specific events, like Four County’s giveaway last week in Capac, while others were delivered directly to schools, like those packed by LCCF volunteers.

According to the National Retail Federation’s annual back to school survey, the average family will spend more than $100 per child on supplies for the classroom but those notebooks, pencils, scissors and more fall into one of the smaller spending categories that parents encounter this time of year. The federation’s survey shows that American families will spend the most on electronics, followed by clothing and then shoes in preparation for the 2021-22 new school year.

The 2019 Huntington Bank Backpack Index showed that across the Midwest, parents paid between $1,100 and $1,600 that year for school supplies, extracurricular fees and technology. Although most students in the Tri-City area have access to laptops or other devices provided by their schools, families are incurring the cost of connecting to the internet so that children can learn virtually, perform regular homework assignments and much more.

Those numbers don’t encompass what teachers spend themselves on supplies for their students. According to a 2020 survey by AdoptAClassroom.org, teachers spent an average of $745 on supplies during the 2019-2020 school year. Most reported that their spending increased due to distance learning and the need to purchase specific materials for those settings.

In addition to the foundation’s efforts, many other individuals and organizations within our community donate to schools or help teachers get the necessary supplies before the first bell rings every fall. It’s great to see these efforts become established in our community and we trust that they will remain a tradition for years to come.