PFLUGERVILLE, Texas (KXAN) — A local elementary school is telling parents not to buy their kids backpacks this school year because they have enough to give every student a new bag at the start of classes next week.
Margaret Olivarez, a third-grade teacher at Copperfield Elementary, saw the need and wanted to do something about it. The Pflugerville ISD educator started reaching out to big corporations over the summer to see if they could help outfit her school.
“I started at the very top,” Olivarez said. “I started emailing the CEOs.”
Her messages trickled down from the top to local offices. She asked for a small number — 25 to sponsor a class, 75 to sponsor a grade level — and heard “no” more than a few times. Then she started getting the response she hoped for, and then some.
Dell sent 230, which employees packed with supplies and hand-written notes of encouragement; T-Mobile and Vera Bradley each sent 150; Ross Dress for Less sent 75; Geico donated 70; Sprint sent 25; and Dick’s Sporting Goods picked out 18 sport backpacks with $65 price tags.
HP Austin employees donated 104 backpacks and supplies in a week after Olivarez emailed CEO Dion Weisler, the company said in a news release.
So far, she’s collected more than 800 backpacks, more than enough for every student at the school. Nordstrom and Home Depot each sent gift cards, too.
“I was a little overwhelmed,” she said. “I didn’t think we were going to receive this kind of attention. It was just a simple email.”
The idea came when Olivarez was watching back-to-school commercials. “And I’m thinking how many of our students actually show up the first day of school without supplies and a backpack.”
“It’s heartbreaking. I know as a teacher myself, I would purchase things to have the first day of school because all the kids are so happy, they’re opening stuff, and then you have those that might just sit there, and I just couldn’t sit there and do that.”
Last year and again this year, the school received a few dozen backpacks packed with supplies from Our Savior Lutheran Church, just around the corner from the school.
“While the congregation of the church is able to help the most needy students, what about all the other students?” said Georgie Arenaz, Copperfield’s principal.
Olivarez wanted to provide more to take the burden off families, especially those with multiple kids to shop for.
“Ms. Olivarez asks, well, ‘What if? What would happen?'” Arenaz said. “She’s very good about asking, ‘Why not?'”
If the story sounds familiar, it’s because Olivarez is the same teacher who petitioned colleges last school year to donate t-shirts so every kid at the school would have one to wear during the district’s college t-shirt days.
She’s kept collecting the shirts, and Arenaz gave her a storage closet to hold all of them. Every student will also get a new college t-shirt with their backpacks.
Some younger students picked up their new supplies Tuesday; more will get them during the district’s neighborhood walk Thursday, and the rest will pick them up on the first day of school. “I think the biggest difference is a sense of relief,” Arenaz said.
That goes for Olivarez as much as anyone.
“It’s going to be a good school year,” she said, beaming. “Day one, they’re all going to have a smile on their face.”