Victoria Samuels holds one of the 2,000 blue backpacks Prince George's County middle school students will receive before school starts Sept. 3. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
Victoria Samuels holds one of the 2,000 blue backpacks Prince George's County middle school students will receive before school starts Sept. 3. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

Prince George’s County Public Schools will conduct its ninth annual initiative to collect at least 10,000 backpacks to help students prepare for the first day of classes on Sept. 3.

So far, it received at least 2,000 blue backpacks thanks to the Support Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization established by Educational Systems Federal Credit Union (ESFCU) of Bowie. Each bag, stuffed with college-ruled notebook paper, pens, highlighters and a ruler, is for middle school students.

Employees of the credit union, along with public school staff and volunteers, loaded boxes on a school bus last week as part of the county’s “Stuff-A-Bus” with school supplies. Each backpack also has a cellphone case on the side of it.

“Our core purpose is serving the education community,” said Victoria Samuels, ESFCU’s vice president of community relations. “We do all sorts of activities for all students, but middle school is a very formative year for students. It is one of the most challenging years. We want to make sure they start off strong.”

The county continued to collect backpacks at various events last week. They will be distributed to students at a back-to-school block party Saturday, Aug. 17 at the Sports and Learning Complex in Landover.

Last year, the school system collected 15,000 backpacks for elementary, middle and high school students at Prince George’s Stadium, home of the Bowie Baysox minor league baseball team.

For those who still want to donate, there’s a guideline on what to submit. School officials asked for red, blue, yellow, green or clear backpacks. For supplies, officials request wide-ruled composition books, crayons, glue sticks and #2 pencils for elementary school students, Middle and high school students can receive college-ruled notebook paper, blue or black pens, highlighters and pocket folders.

Parents needed to register by Sunday, Aug. 11 for their children to receive a backpack and must be in attendance at Saturday’s event. Students can also receive free vision and dental screenings and parents obtain school and community resources from vendors.

Public schools CEO Monica Goldson sent a community email Thursday, Aug. 8 summarizing some of the county’s priorities. One major aspect will be $53 million in state funding that include:

• $14 million to expand full-day prekindergarten at nine schools and launch a universal pre-kindergarten pilot program at 17 schools.
• $13 million to restore salaries for employees who lost step increases between 2009 and 2012 and remained with the school system.
• $12 million to expand and add health care practitioners, social workers and other services to 45 schools with highest number of students living in poverty.

Meanwhile, students such as Andretti Vides, 14, earned community service hours by helping stuff, load and distribute the backpacks and other school supplies.

Andretti, who will start his high school next month as a ninth-grader in Suitland’s Visual Performing Arts program, helped load boxes of supplies at the credit union in Bowie.

“My mother is a parent assistant at Hillcrest Heights Elementary School,” he said. “I’ve been coming with her to events like this since I was a little boy, so I got the gist of everything, especially the Stuff-A-Bus. I always like to help out the community. I learn that even a small community that gives can make a big difference.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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