coronavirus pandemic

Hundreds of Backpacks Distributed to Students in Need in Worcester

The Friendly House stuffed hundreds of backpacks with school supplies during their annual Set for Success Drive

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Hundreds of backpacks stuffed with school supplies made their way into the hands of students in need in Worcester, Massachusetts, on Thursday, as the Friendly House held its annual Set for Success Drive.

"This year is even more important that all the kids in Worcester have the supplies they need, have the support they need to be successful this year with the remote learning," said Susan Daly, Assistant to the Executive Director at The Friendly House.

Paulette Williams, whose nephew needs supplies, was appreciative of the backpack giveaway.

"These kids are very sensitive, and their education is really important so the fact that the schools are giving out the Chromebooks, the hotspots, people are coming together to give food packages and backpacks ... like it shows that there's still a great love in the community," Williams said.

With the city's 25,000 students starting remotely this school year, families that were already struggling to get by before the coronavirus pandemic, have a lot of smaller concerns like school supplies, that add up to a large amount of stress.

"It's hard to get internet because she lives in a high-rise," Worcester grandmother Annie Santiago said of her granddaughter.

"My concerns are that I really want to go to school, but I'm – really at the same time, I want to stay home safe," said incoming Worcester fourth-grader Jexziel Colon.

His mother, Damaris Colon, also has concerns with remote learning.

"This is going to be hard, just on one person to try to work with the two kids," Damaris Colon said.

In addition to providing backpacks, community groups throughout the Commonwealth are continuing to try to find new ways to support students as the school year approaches and are working to solve or at least bring to light the new educational challenges that everyone is facing.

In fact, the Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance held a forum for students and parents to be able to share their concerns – and they are more complex and dire than many people may realize.

"I want to be able to ask questions without waiting days for my teachers to respond back," incoming Everett High School sophomore Araceli Flores said.

"What happens if one of us gets sick? What happens if one of us gets laid off," asked Katy Ochoa, an incoming senior at Chelsea High School.

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