Printer paper, spray bottles, paper bags, adhesive strips and cotton balls are not the first things that would usually appear on a wish list. However, for teachers at the Mather School in Dorchester, the oldest free public elementary school in North America, these simple items are not always available due to budgetary constraints.
Some of the teachers at Mather reached out to community members, such as the Community Service Center at Boston University, to contribute supplies to a holiday donation drive.
Max Crossan, program manager for campus partnerships and events at the CSC, said this is the second year that BU has worked with Mather for its annual drive.
Last year, Crossan said, the drive brought in over 300 individual contributions given by over 50 donors.
Emma Parkinson, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences and a member of the leadership committee for the drive, said that she believes BU has commonalities with the elementary school.
“At BU, education is really important, and maintaining that fact that both BU and Mather are places that really value education, even though we are working with different ages, is a great way to maintain that community relationship,” Parkinson said.
Crossan said that teachers at Mather sent a list of needed supplies to coordinators at the CSC to facilitate the drive. The CSC then contacted students, Greek life organizations, BU community groups and classes such as FY101 who then signed up to donate the items.
“Drives like this in particular are important, I think, because the donation requests are coming directly from our community partners at Mather,” Crossan said. “They know better than us what they need, so it’s good to know that we are donating things they actually can use instead of us just assuming.”
According to Mather’s website, 84 percent of the school’s students are low-income, and 38 percent have limited proficiency in English.
“These students are trying to survive,” said Karyn Stranberg, Mather’s assistant principal.
Stranberg said the school helps many students whose parents are incarcerated, who struggle with homelessness or who receive special education services. Many of the students rely on after-school programs and enrichment opportunities that Mather provides, she said.
“Whatever we can do to make their transition and their experience easier, we want to do,” Stranberg said. “Within our school, we go beyond the call of duty.”
Stranberg said Xerox printer paper, notebooks, paper towels and colored paper, in particular, are luxuries that the school district doesn’t have enough money to buy.
“Within the last five years, we have really relied on the community,” Stranberg said. “We’re always in need, so every little bit helps. These donations help children feel respected and know that people care — we want every child to come to Mather with everything they need to succeed.”
Parkinson said it was important for schools to have more than just pencils and paper in order to properly educate children.
“You sometimes forget that for a school to run as an institution, you need more than just school supplies,” Parkinson said. “You need paper towels, you need soap, you need all sorts of things to make a school happen.”
Stranberg said Mather has partnered with BU in different ways over the past five years, such as with the First Year Student Outreach Program. FYSOP is a week of engagement in which groups of first-year students are sent to different areas of Boston to do community service work and learn more about the city, according to their website.
FYSOP has worked with Mather in the past few years to prepare and clean classrooms before the elementary students arrived for their first day of school.
“Mather is a really great community partner, and through FYSOP, there’s a way for students to be introduced to the Boston Public Schools system,” Crossan said. “We’re grateful to work with them.”
Stranberg said she is just as enthusiastic about the volunteer partnership between the two schools.
“BU has been wonderful about reaching out, both through donations and through FYSOP,” Stranberg said. “There’s a beautiful bond between BU and Mather, and we hope we can continue it.”
The CSC’s 2018 Holiday Drive will continue until Dec. 7.