Students in St. Louis are heading back to school in August, and for many, that could mean free school supplies.
The Monsanto Family YMCA at 5555 Page Blvd. will co-host the fifth annual Back-to-School Jam from 10 a.m.-2 p.m Saturday. The event, sponsored by several organizations, will give students books, backpacks and other school essentials.
“We want to make sure that every child in our community has the opportunity of success and making sure that they’re off to a good start when they come back to school,” said Marcus Wilson, executive director of the Monsanto Family YMCA.
The Monsanto Family YMCA and community organizer Demingo Loggins started the event in 2015, Wilson said. This year, the program will feature more than 25 community vendors, including representatives from Better Family Life and the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis. It also will highlight free community health services and job training opportunities.
The event aims to bring awareness to various programs and community resources present in north St. Louis, Wilson said.
“The areas right around here, the average household income is about $27,000, $28,000, versus the state average of $53,000,” Wilson said. “When kids come from backgrounds where the parents can’t afford the school supplies, that burden now either falls on the teacher to come out of their pocket, or the child just goes without.”
College Kids Program
This year, the Monsanto Family YMCA is working with the St. Louis Treasurer's Office of Financial Empowerment to help families save for college. The office oversees the St. Louis College Kids program which establishes college savings accounts for St. Louis Public School students starting in kindergarten with a $50 deposit.
St. Louis Public School students in kindergarten through the fourth grade are automatically enrolled. But the event will allow families to set up additional savings accounts to register older students through 1st Financial Federal Credit Union, said Lisa Gates, director of the Office of Financial Empowerment.
“When starting these accounts, they have access to these funds when they graduate; they can go to a trade school or a college or university,” said Barbara Graham, the college savings account coordinator. “With that being said, you will have more talented, skilled professionals in the next 10 to 15 years.”
Students who start a college savings account are three times more likely to attend college and four times more likely to graduate from college when compared to those without a savings account, according to a 2013 report from the Center on Assets, Education and Inclusion. Graham said particularly for public school students whose families may find it difficult to otherwise pay for college, the program is critical.
“Parents may not have the awareness or knowledge as far as financial aid, grants and scholarships,” Graham said. “I think those may be barriers as far as things that may impact why they can’t go to college.”
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