Free school supplies 'huge surprise' for U.S. kids

By Chris Huber

Alyna has always been excited about school.

When she was 5, she told her grandmother she planned to live with her while attending classes at the University of Puget Sound.

The 11-year-old girl is still determined as ever, planning to write her way to the university.

"I've been trying to keep up on my homework and try to get all my work done, and it's paying off a lot," says Alyna, a fifth-grade elementary school student in Washington State.

'Not been able to go and get my own things'

Alyna's worries center on whether her worn-out binder will make through the school year.

Alyna's family is among the millions of Americans struggling trying to make ends meet. The bright and articulate child is one of five siblings.

Buying new school supplies takes low priority on a family's list of essentials.

Alyna Lewandowsky

Students like Alyna were excited to receive new backpacks stuffed with school supplies.

"I've always got hand-me-downs and not been able to go and get my own things," Alyna says.

Last month, Alyna and 350 schoolmates at her school received backpacks loaded with school supplies. Local churches and other groups donated the items through World Vision's SchoolTools program.

"It really recharges [our] batteries getting these to the kids out here," says Reed Slattery, site manager for World Vision's Seattle-area warehouse, where school supplies are stored and distributed. "This is a little thing [for some people], but I hope they [the kids] remember this as the community looking out for them."

Now, Alyna has a new backpack. It's packed with pencils, pens and markers—supplies she needs to write down her words for stories and lyrics for music.

"All sorts of things I didn't have because I couldn't get them at my house because we didn't have that much money to spend," she says.

Kelly Carlile Quote

Tough economic conditions take toll in the classroom

"For us it's a simple backpack, but for them it's a huge surprise and a big deal," says Kelly Carlile, a second-grade teacher at Alyna's school.

Teachers also struggle to supply pupils with school materials. Teachers are known to spend at least $1,000 a year of their own money on classroom supplies, including pencils.

"For us, we really don't know year by year," Carlile says. "Some years, we might have one child that brings what's on the [supplies] list. Some years we might get lucky, and there's six. And we really have to fill in the holes of what we don't have."