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Nursing Students Continue to Support Kids in Need

Janee Smith helps collect school supplies for Operational Backpack 2010The start of a new school year is daunting enough for homeless children without adding the stigma of sitting down to a desk without the essential school supplies many of their classmates may take for granted.

That is why for the fourth year in a row, Samuel Merritt University (SMU) nursing students, faculty and staff from the Sacramento Regional Learning Center took it upon themselves to collect and donate nearly 50 full school backpacks.  Each bag containing approximately 40 items of school supplies such as a new binders, notebooks, calculators, pencils - even crayons. 

"It is important to dedicate one's life to giving back, it's the essence of nursing." said Rene Clymer-Englehart, RN, MSN, Managing Director of SRLC and Assistant Professor. 

The collection went to the 6th Annual America's Operation Backpack, a nonprofit organization that provides students with school supplies.  "The goal is to boost the confidence of Sacramento-area kids in need by providing new backpacks and school supplies to help them achieve academic excellence in spite of their unstable living situations," explains Janee Smith, a SMU nursing student in the Accelerated Bachelors of Science in Nursing program.

According to Volunteers of America, the non-profit organization for Operation Backpack, more than 6,000 Sacramento County school children have been identified as "homeless" - some 40,000 live in poverty.  Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) serves many students who live in shelters, run-down motels, in cars, and on the street.  Some analysts report that with the economic crisis, many housed-families are now on the brink of joining this homeless population.

Samuel Merritt University Nursing Students from the Sacramento Regional Learning Center collecting backpacks for low-income students

"Despite the bleakness and uncertainty in their lives, these students have one thing in common, they want to be in school with their peers," said SCUSD program director-homeless liaison Monica McRho. "But they lack adequate school supplies, which leads to embarrassment and absenteeism.  New backpacks and school supplies help motivate them to attend school, succeed in their work, and fit in with their peers."

Nearly 2,000 backpacks full of grade-appropriate school supplies were collected and distributed to boys and girls aged 5 to 17 around the Greater Sacramento Area this year.  "It is so rewarding to see the excitement and joy on their faces as they receive their backpacks," said McRho.  "The students waste no time in opening them up, and pulling out the contents for everyone to see.  It is a small thing to most of us, but means everything to them."

For more information about Operation Backpack or Volunteers of America, please go to www.volunteersofamerica-sac.org, or call (916) 442.3691.

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