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Education is a right we take for granted.

We assume that the schools, teachers and the learning process we all experienced will be there for our children and the next generations. What we forget is that public instruction, free of cost, is a relatively new phenomenon – only legislated in the U.S. since 1918. Much of the developing world does not have access to the level of education that we do. We are fortunate, and must continue to strengthen and support the educational systems that we have. The quality of education can also vary greatly even throughout Contra Costa, depending on multiple factors. We recognize that high quality education is very much dependent on the economics of where you live and the funding of the system delivering the education, not to mention the ability of parents to support their children throughout the 12 year process. We know how critical education is to future success, but we struggle with how to make that education happen, especially in communities with less stable economics and families in crisis.

I remember one of my children’s teachers talking to us parents at Back to School night and telling us how important it was to have a quiet place for the child to do his homework, with all the supplies provided to complete the assignments. What a basic concept, but I hadn’t thought of it! I ran right out and got all the supplies my child needed and designated a time and place to get the homework done. What if you didn’t have that luxury? What if you can’t afford to spend the money to buy your child supplies for the year and a decent backpack to use for school? With all the education cuts at the state and local levels, families are now responsible for providing all the supplies needed for their child in the classroom, and usually more for mutually needed items (e.g. Kleenex). We estimate the cost of a backpack filled with supplies at a minimum of $50, and that is just for the basics! High school backpacks are more expensive, with all the special highlighters, notebooks, math supplies and calculators that older students need. This can be a major challenge for parents struggling to pay rent and buy food, especially if they have more than one child attending school.

So this is where we ask for your support for Project Ready to Learn, providing backpacks and school supplies for low income children throughout our county. Remember, this is an investment in their future, giving them the resources and access to education that is part of the American dream. It is also an investment in OUR future. I joke with my children that they had better do well in school and get good jobs to pay my Social Security, but I am only partly joking. We do rely on the next generation to maintain our society and values. Let’s show them we have confidence in them now, by supporting them in school, with the simple gift of a backpack and supplies.

Thank you again, and have a great summer!

Anne Struthers
Division Manager
Contra Costa County Employment & Human Services Department

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