The idea began after CMU student
Galen Miller helped his fraternity with a water drive for Flint residents last spring. He saw the impact of the situation on the community and the broad needs of area youth. From this experience sprang a nonprofit that has equipped hundreds of youth with the classroom supplies they need this school year.
Pack Your Back was established as a 501(c)3 in March of this year. As they discussed what they could do to help the city's families and make a positive difference for children beyond providing water, student success and school supplies rose to the top of the list.
In its first six months, the organization generated supplies to fill more than 500 backpacks for Flint students. Each year the nonprofit will choose a new community to receive classroom supplies donated throughout the year.
"We began to think about how we could incorporate school supplies and childhood development," said Miller, a CMU sophomore from Bad Axe.
"If we can provide students with this little thing that makes all the difference, we think we can help change the world."
Caroline Murray, a sophomore from Rockford
The team recognized the financial challenges faced by many families as they purchase paper, pencils and crayons — and balance other daily expenses — were not unique to Flint.
"If we can provide students with this little thing that makes all the difference, we think we can help change the world," Rockford sophomore Caroline Murray said.
The students developed partnerships with nonprofits, companies and other organizations to establish 20 convenient collection sites across the state. School supplies came from individuals and businesses throughout Michigan. Corporate sponsors, like
Field Notes, also helped boost the impact of the team's efforts.
As the school year neared, Pack Your Back collaborated with Project Flint, Veterans of Now, Gallery on the Go and more to host a back-to-school event earlier this month. There, families were able to browse and shop the donated supplies as well as take part in fun, interactive activities.
For the students and alumnus behind Pack Your Back, their passion for the new nonprofit and their hard work all goes back to transforming lives through education and helping others.
"As older students, we feel it is our responsibility to help the younger generation because a lot of the problems in our world can be solved simply by helping the younger students get their education," Murray said.