Niagara Gazette — Back to school time is stressful. There's getting class schedules figured out and finding out what bus to take, if any.
But none of the stress from those compares to school supply shopping, especially for parents lacking basic resources, unable to give their children exactly what's needed to get them through their next — or first — year of school.
To combat any sense of disappointment or unpreparedness among the children in Niagara Falls, some area elementary schools have partnered with area businesses to provide some of their students with the most essential of materials.
"We know money's tight," Maria Chille-Zafuto, principal of Cataract Elementary, said. "Even if we send a school supplies list home, we know not everyone can come in with what they need to succeed."
Cataract, therefore, has joined with Olin, one of its Adopt-a-School partners, to provide students with backpacks filled with some of the most important materials each student needs.
This is the second year Olin has donated the supplies. Students will receive their own set of colored pencils, as well as crayons, notebook paper, folders, glue sticks and other essentials, Chille-Zafuto said.
Each backpack will contain items each grade level puts emphasis on, she added.
Olin isn't the only company helping at Cataract, though. She said Sam's Club, which is another Adopt-a-School partner with Cataract, will once again provide a number of gift cards for teachers to spend on some replacement supplies as the backpack materials wear down or fill up.
Chille-Zafuto said the majority of the teachers spend their own money on supplies for their entire classes, which a past relationship with Sam's Club has helped defray.
"Things do run out," she said. "I guess that's why stores have sales on school supplies in January. Teachers tend to spend between $500 and $1,000 of their own money on supplies. This definitely helps offset this."
While Cataract has received a number of backpacks filled with supplies for its students, Niagara Street Elementary has also received a gift from a partner.
Through its Smart Start program, Univera Healthcare, which donates a number of supply-filled backpacks to schools throughout Western New York, dropped off 150 helpful kits Tuesday to the district's most-populated primary school.
According to Olivia Belter, community affairs director for the healthcare provider, the goal of providing the backpacks to schools like Niagara Street is to help ease the burden on both students and parents. When students aren't going to school with everything they need, it doesn't just affect the performance in class, it can affect attitudes of parents as well, she said.
"At Univera Healthcare, we recognize the challenge parents face at this time of year," company President Art Wingerter said. "There are children's physical forms to complete, school supplies to purchase and lunches to start packing. Our Start Smart program is just one way we can help."
Helping Univera make its donation is KB Graphics and OfficeMax, which donated the backpacks and supplies respectively. The program's donation will go to 150 students at the school among various grade levels, Niagara Street Principal Paulette Pierce said.
She said the gift will help ensure children get off to the best start in 2012-13 as possible.
"We're extremely grateful to get these backpacks," she said. "Along with eating a good breakfast and having support at home, children must come to school equipped with the right tools to succeed. These are good quality backpacks, they'll protect their books."