‘I get to choose the bag I like’: Oshawa students pick up backpacks ahead of school year

Excitement for the first day of school is starting to build but with that comes the added stress of spending money on new supplies and clothing.

A program in Oshawa that provides children with backpacks full of school supplies is helping to relieve some of that stress.

Sadisha Cousins is gearing up for Grade 8. She’s heading into her final year at Village Union Public School and she’s at Simcoe Hall Settlement House to pick up the supplies she needs to succeed in the classroom.

“It’s kind of fun — I get to choose the stuff that I want and my mom doesn’t just get to choose a bag whether I like it or not. I get to choose the bag I like,” said Sadisha.

This is the third year Sadisha and her family have used the backpack program in Oshawa.

“It was actually quite stressful because I always had to check to see how much the backpacks were, the shoes were, the school supplies, never mind where I could get them at a reasonable price,” said Kathleen Geldart, Sadisha’s mom, describing what back-to-school was like before the program.

“It lets me know that all the stuff that I need is in the bag and normally I have trouble fitting everything into one bag,” said Sadisha.

The Simcoe Hall Settlement House gave out more than 1,000 backpacks last year. Leading up to this school year, they expect to give out more than 1,100, the most since the program began.

“Getting your children back to school is an expensive venture at any point,” said backpack program co-ordinator Pat Savage. “So we have asked the community over the past 10-12 years to help us out to aid these children so that they can start the new school year fully equipped with everything that they need.”

Savage has been helping out with the program for the past 11 years. In that time, she says the community has stepped up contributions significantly.

“The first year I distributed 67 filled backpacks. We had to turn a lot of children in the community away because we just didn’t have the donations,” she said. “Each year it’s grown and the last four years we haven’t had to say no to any child — we’ve been able to meet the needs of the community.”

Thanks to a helping hand from the program, students can concentrate on class and feel confident on the first day back.

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