Aug 222011
Authors: Allison Knaus

With freshly sharpened pencils, brand new spiral notebooks and clean erasers, the first week of school is well underway, and it’s not just for CSU.

This week marked the first of the school year for many elementary, middle and high schools throughout Fort Collins and surrounding areas.

But with the start of a new year comes the demand for costly supplies to meet many school’s required lists.

School is Cool, a partnered effort between CSU, the CSU Bookstore and the Bohemian Foundation, provides school supplies to less fortunate students at 46 schools in the Poudre School District. The backpacks were delivered to schools on Aug. 18.

According to Larimer County officials, the poverty rate in Larimer County jumped from 12.4 percent in 2008 to 15.6 percent in 2009, which is higher than the national average of 14.3 percent.

In its 20th year, School is Cool recently provided 2,674 backpacks across Fort Collins, Wellington, Timnath and LaPorte, exceeding the goal of 2,650 backpacks, explained Colleen Rodriguez, a marketing coordinator for the program.

“The CSU Bookstore was a huge help in donations and with getting discounts for bulk orders,” she said.

The Bohemian Foundation provided an $8,000 cash gift to be used for middle school scientific calculators.

Among the 46 schools with students who received backpacks, Irish Elementary in Fort Collins received more than 100 backpack and school supply donations from School is Cool and other outside contributions.

According to Maria Ortiz, the twenty-first century grant director at Irish Elementary, School is Cool alleviates stress from parents who are unable to provide the necessary school supplies for their children.

The students and parents are very appreciative, and it lifts the huge burden of the many costs that come with this time of year, Ortiz said.

“The kids don’t really know where they come from, but when they see their new backpacks filled with supplies, the reaction is pretty rewarding,” she said. “They were just tearing through the backpacks, and it makes coming back to school a real experience for them.”

Ortiz said within the last few years, the hard economic times have meant families who need backpacks aren’t always just lower income families.

“We have been seeing more middle class families with parents who have been laid off and are in need of the program,” Ortiz said.

At Lincoln IB World Middle School, 50 percent of the students receive free and reduced lunches and are in need of help from the School is Cool program.

Monie Quintana, the school’s front desk registrar, said the donated backpacks were in high demand this year.

While not all students who receive free and reduced lunches were able to receive donated backpacks, School is Cool provided many students with supplies.

“The parents couldn’t be happier and more appreciative of the School is Cool program; it really puts a positive spin on the start of school,” Quintana said.

School is Cool accepts donations year-round. For more information about the program visit

_Staff writer Allison Knaus can be reached at _

School is Cool

  • A $20 donation pays for a backpack filled with an average of 13 items ranging from crayons to 3-ring binders
  • The packs are delivered directly to school principals or counselors and distributed based on student needs

*This year, 130 volunteers helped to gather supplies and put the backpacks together.

  • The School is Cool program is supported by the Bohemian Foundation, the CSU Bookstore and the Fort Collins community.
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