Daniela Pineda Soraca remembers the first time she received a School is Cool backpack.
She was attending Irish Elementary School in Fort Collins, and she had no idea how her mother, Maria, was going to afford the school supplies she would need to succeed. Her family, originally from Colombia, had just moved to Fort Collins and money was tight. And yet, when Daniela started school, she had everything she needed.
“It was all new – everything was pristine,” Daniela said. “Every year we would get a supply list from the school, and other kids would get excited about going school supply shopping. For me, at the beginning of the year, this backpack filled with supplies would just magically appear. I always wanted to know where it came from – I didn’t know about School is Cool.”
Huge impact in PSD
School is Cool has provided supply-filled backpacks to less-fortunate kids in Poudre School District schools for more than 25 years. CSU employees, along with support from the CSU Bookstore, the Bohemian Foundation and Costco, have provided funds for more than 40,000 backpacks since the program’s inception in 1992.
By the time Daniela entered Blevins Middle School, then graduated from Rocky Mountain High School, her family no longer needed help from programs like School is Cool. Her mom started a successful cleaning business, and Daniela and her younger brother and sister got to experience the thrill of school supply shopping for themselves.
Daniela went on to CSU, becoming the first in her family to attend college. As a junior she served as Associated Students of Colorado State University President, pulling off an upset to win the election at the end of her sophomore year.
“Getting to know and work with Daniela last year in her role as the President of ASCSU is a highlight for me,’” said Blanche Hughes vice president for student affairs. “I have worked with many outstanding student leaders over the years and Daniela’s motivation, creativity, work ethic, intelligence and optimism puts her at the top of the list. Her love for Colorado State University started as a child growing up in Fort Collins and you can tell that serving the University as the student body president meant so much to her. She wanted to make a difference and she did.”
Finding the ‘magical’ answer
Then, during last year’s Fall Address, CSU President Tony Frank started talking about School is Cool and how the program epitomized the CSU spirit of community outreach and commitment to education. Daniela, on the stage after giving a brief speech, suddenly realized that the backpacks that had “magically appeared” when she was in elementary school actually came from a CSU-based program.
“Knowing that School is Cool had an impact on her life is inspiring and a testament to the impact of this amazing program,” Hughes said.
Returning the favor
Daniela, now a senior majoring in both international studies and business administration, said growing up in a single-parent home with little money taught her a great deal. That’s why she will be working a shift when volunteers from CSU and the community come together to sort supplies, stuff them into backpacks and deliver them to elementary, middle and high schools across Fort Collins and the surrounding area.
“My experience growing up here really helped me understand that I want to give back,” she said. “This is such a giving community, and I want to be in a position to help these organizations that helped me and my family survive. Programs like School is Cool make me so proud to be part of this community.
“I know how getting a backpack made me feel when I was in school, so I’m looking forward to volunteering for the first time. I hope I can be part of something that helps the next generation of leaders in this community succeed.”
Twenty-six years of helping kids
The three-day process of sorting supplies, stuffing backpacks and making deliveries to PSD schools begins Tuesday, Aug. 8 in CSU’s Johnson Hall and concludes Thursday, Aug. 10. More than 200 people fom across campus and the community volunteer to successfully complete the process of stuffing more than 2,500 backpacks.
You can support School is Cool by making a donation online.