Beyond the Backpack event prepares students for school year

Two weeks before the beginning of the school year in the Normandy Schools Collaborative, more than 1,000 students got a jump start at preparing for the school year.

Beyond Housing’s annual Beyond the Backpack event took place Aug. 5, providing a one-stop shop for students back-to-school needs. NSC students received school supplies, backpacks, physicals, haircuts and tennis shoes. In collaboration with Sneakers With Soul, the provider of the tennis shoes, approximately 1,400 footwear items were given out to students, Sneakers With Soul President Maurice Parisien said.

“Overall, I feel that this year’s Beyond the Backpack event was a huge success,” Parisien said. “Sneakers With Soul participated in Beyond the Backpack back in 2019, pre-COVID. At that event we distributed nearly 500 pairs of sneakers. Needless to say, this year’s program was head and shoulders over our initial program participation.”

The event has grown in scope over the years, giving more and more students a head start on preparing for school. Name-brand sneakers like these can cost more than $65 and if a family has multiple children, that cost alone can be extreme. As a result of Beyond the Backpack, families can use that money on other household needs.

According to the Kids In Need Foundation, a national nonprofit focused on providing school supplies to underserved schools, there are many benefits to students having school supplies. If more students have the necessary supplies, they can learn better as a group where fewer students are going to fall behind. Teachers can focus on lesson plans instead of spending time figuring out how to spread out limited classroom supplies to students in need.

While the big-picture effect is well documented, Parisien said the individual reactions from the children always stick with them. At this year’s event, Parisien gave one student a pair of sneakers and the child’s eyes lit up. He repeatedly declared that the shoes were “awesome” and the child’s grandmother told Parisien that the child hadn’t reacted that positively to anything in a long time.

“I’ve been doing the work of Sneakers With Soul for 14 consecutive years, and a young student’s reaction like this just never gets old,” Parisien said.

Beyond the Backpack 2023 By the Numbers

  • 3,000 people attended the event
  • 1,600 backpacks full of school supplies given away
  • 1,400 shoes given away
  • $45,600 raised in sponsorships and individual donations
  • Over 100 students received physicals, healthcare screenings and dental screenings from Affinia Healthcare
  • 75 haircuts from eight barbers