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Backpack Donation Drive Supports Local Elementary School Students

October 4, 2017

As summer winds down and students head back to the classroom, the College of Education and Human Development donates dozens of backpacks every year to a local school.

“Backpacks are something ubiquitous for kids in schools—and lots of kids can’t afford them,” says CEHD Dean Mark Ginsberg.

Minnieville Elementary School was this year’s recipient of the annual donation drive.

The school, located in Woodbridge, VA, has a high proportion of new immigrants to the U.S., according to Ginsberg, and also has students with unique needs, which made it a good fit for the donation. English is not the first language for half of the students, and more than 80 percent of the school’s 500 students qualify for the free or reduced-price lunch program.

The school’s principal is Nathaniel Provencio, a CEHD alumnus who was named the Washington Post’s 2017 Principal of the Year.

“He’s created a community of learners in elementary schools that’s very impressive,” Ginsberg says of Provencio.

Shortly after Provencio became principal at Minnieville Elementary School, the school did not meet educational benchmarks in Virginia (along with 485 other schools around the state) and was required to implement an improvement plan.

That was in 2012. In just five years, 87 percent of students at the school pass state reading exams, and nearly 90 percent pass state math exams.

“At the end of the day our job is to create an environment where we are going to immerse children with a quality education the first time,” Provencio told the Mason Spirit earlier this year. “We are not going to wait for our children to fail before they receive the support they deserve.”

CEHD doesn’t only donate backpacks directly to schools. As in previous years, it partnered with Apple Federal Credit Union’s Education Foundation, which puts on a regional donation drive.

Donating backpacks is a way for the college to positively impact local schools—but it’s far from the only way. In fact, much like a doctor learns as much on the job as in the classroom, CEHD emphasizes clinical practice for its faculty, graduate students, and, increasingly, undergrads.

“Our faculty are in schools all the time,” Ginsberg says. “That’s what we do.”