School is Cool: 29 years, 50,000 backpacks

Volunteers take part in the annual School is Cool, stuffing 2,800 backpacks with supplies for Poudre School District students in grades K-12. Photos by John Eisele/CSU Photos

It was a unique challenge, but volunteers once again helped the School is Cool backpack program succeed in its mission to give students in Poudre School District the best possible chance to succeed.

School is Cool, now in its 29th year, stuffed 2,800 backpacks with high-quality, grade-specific supplies for PSD students in grades K-12. And for the first time in program history, School is Cool provided 300 CSU students with supplies for the fast-approaching school year.

Those numbers helped push the total number of backpacks provided past 50,000 – an impressive figure when you consider 66 backpacks were distributed when the program debuted in 1992. Funding comes from the Bohemian Foundation, CSU Bookstore and hundreds of employees, alumni and community members willing to lend a hand.

“It really was an amazingly successful year,” said School is Cool founder Kathy Phifer. “We were presented with so many challenges because of COVID-19, but our donors and volunteers really came through. PSD requested 300 more backpacks than we normally provide, and CSU requested supplies for another 300 students impacted by the pandemic, but our supporters made it happen.”

Safety protocols in place

Temperatures were taken upon arrival and social distancing was in place for School is Cool. Photo by John Eisele/CSU Photos

The three-day process of sorting supplies, stuffing them into backpacks and delivering them to nearly 30 PSD schools was unlike any in the program’s history. Volunteers wore masks at all times, temperatures were taken upon arrival and social distancing was in place.

Among the volunteers was CSU President Joyce McConnell, who stuffed backpacks with newly named Provost Mary Pedersen and Yolanda Bevill, the new vice president of University Communications.

“Congratulations to the School is Cool program for hitting the 50,000 backpack mark; that’s such an impressive accomplishment and a great testament to the dedication of donors and volunteers who come together each year with a singular goal to give young students a confident start to the school year,” McConnell said. “I want to thank everyone involved with School is Cool for doing such a great job adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols.”