Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Packing up back-to-school excitement — Soldotna graduate starts charity to provide new book bags, supplies to underprivileged students

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Deana Glick remembers the excitement of the first day of elementary school, brought on by the ritual amassing of new school supplies.

There was the smooth, glossy finish of file folders, the muted rattle of crayons in their box, the sharp smell of graphite and the never-been-opened glue sticks that didn’t yet leave goobers on everything they touch, all tucked safely away in a new backpack, organized to a level that would never be seen again during the school year to come.

“Pretty much my biggest dreams and educational goals came in elementary school, that’s where it all started for me. I was always so excited about school and getting excited the first day with brand-new stuff,” Glick said.

Now a premed student at the University of Alaska Anchorage, the 20-year-old Redoubt Elementary School alumna from Soldotna was thinking earlier this year about how much her education has meant to her, and considered what it might be like for kids who weren’t as fortunate as she was.

Even something as little as not having a new backpack and school supplies would have made a difference in how much she looked forward to school.

“When I started thinking about kids who were going to go that first day empty-handed, it’s heartbreaking,” she said. “I don’t want anyone being discouraged because they don’t have some of the stuff the other kids have.”

Glick formed a nonprofit organization, A Backpack Can Help, this summer to make sure that didn’t happen.

“I basically got this idea, I really wanted to help out in the community and education is so important to me, so I started this nonprofit charity to encourage kids who can’t afford these things that they can still succeed and stay motivated in their education,” she said.

She started raising money earlier this summer by talking to people around town and attending the Wednesday Market at Soldotna Creek Park. She was able to form her nonprofit under the umbrella of the Bridges Community Resource Network, which serves as an organizational clearing-house for local nonprofits.

From there she approached local businesses that sell backpacks and school supplies to get discounts on what she wanted to buy, and got in with the Soldotna Rotary Club, which was “an amazing help” to the program, she said.

Soldotna Rotary’s president, John Pothast, happens to also be the principal of Redoubt Elementary.

Through that connection Glick got set up to hand out some of the 75 backpacks she purchased and stuffed with school supplies to Redoubt kids. It turns out the $1,700 she raised was enough to provide bags to students in Soldotna and Tustumena elementary schools, too.

On Friday, Glick and her mother, Darlene, crowded Pothast’s office with bags awaiting recipients to come pick them out.

There were plenty to choose from — bags sporting camouflage and superheroes for boys, pretty princess bags for girls, plus a variety of more understated colors and designs.

“This is the part I’m excited for. I can’t wait to see the smiles on all their faces,” Glick said.

A second-grade girl opted for a bag with pink swirls, although she had to be redirected from a shoulder messenger bag that was nearly as big as she was — to the same design in a smaller format.

For a boy in her grade, Spiderman won out over Batman after a brief moment of indecision.

“I think it’s outstanding,” Pothast said. “Anytime we can help any student is a good thing, particularly the kids who don’t have the means. It’s not fair that they start at that disadvantage. At least at the beginning, this helps everyone start the same way.”

Glick fit her charity work into her already busy summer, taking online classes from UAA, working four days a week at a coffee shop and working the other three days a week doing phlebotomy training at Central Peninsula Hospital. Even so, she said she plans to expand ABC Help next summer.

“It’s definitely something I want to continue on next year and the following years,” she said. “Hopefully it’ll expand to where I can help all the central peninsula elementary schools. There are so many underprivileged kids and a lot of people don’t know how many kids have nothing at all.”

After helping Soldotna kids head back to school properly supplied, it was time for Glick to turn her attention to her own back-to-school shopping.

“I haven’t even done my book buying,” she said Friday, with UAA classes starting Monday.

Shopping for herself will not be as much fun as it was shopping for the kids.

“I have all the hardcore stuff now. No fun crayons or anything like that,” she said.

For more information about ABC Help, contact Glick at To make a donation to next year’s backpack drive, send it to P.O. Box 3598 Soldotna, AK, 99669.

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