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School Supplies Collected For Homeless Students In San Diego

As most students across San Diego County are getting ready to head back to school with stores advertising their back-to-school sales. But for more than 20,000 homeless students in the county, getting school supplies can be a challenge.

Susie Terry from the San Diego County Office of Education sat down with KPBS reporter Priya Sridhar to talk about the Stuff the Bus campaign, which helps students in need get supplies.

Q: Tell me about some of the unique challenges that these 20,000 homeless students face?

A: There are a ton of challenges to being unstably housed or homeless or unsheltered and remaining in school. Often times that means you're traveling to school from further away than you should be, than most kids are. Your family might struggle with transportation in order to get that done. You may be living in situations where it's difficult to get a good night's sleep, or to have a place to do homework, to get a good breakfast before you head out to school. And those are just sort of the logistical challenges.

Q: Tell me about stuff the bus campaign because the mission is really to provide school supplies for those students.

A: Because families experiencing homelessness and students experiencing homelessness have so many challenges, they also have a lot of daily stress. They have a lot of worry, just about how they're going to maintain their schooling. Schools across the county and across the state do a lot to support students, but being able to give them school supplies is sort of our one small way that we can help out.

Q: How can people who are watching this participate?

A: Every year we do Stuff the Bus with the San Diego County Credit Union. This is I believe our fifth year partnering with them, and we collect supplies throughout the month of July at all of their branches and in Walmart or at Mathnasium locations. We've collected all of those supplies for this year, and we started stuffing them into the backpacks and getting them out to schools. We do also accept online donations and that is still available through Saturday.

Q: You talked about some of the challenges that these students face, but it seems like making sure that they have the right supplies can also help keep them in school — which I would assume is great stability for some of these kids who are facing sort of turmoil?

A: Yes, it's so imperative that we keep them in school. School for many of these students provides a sense of stability, a place where people know them. They have a desk or a classroom they can go to every day. They get fed at school. They build relationships with caring adults at school. We [found] from the research that a student who leaves high school without a diploma or an equivalent, GED, or an equivalent is four and a half times more likely to experience homelessness as a young adult. So keeping them in school and getting them through to the finish line is really good for the health of our community as well.

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