School is Cool: 37,000 kids … and counting

Tony Frank has plenty on his “to-do” list. As president of CSU and now chancellor of the CSU System, he is tugged in every imaginable direction trying to serve the needs of students, faculty, staff, alumni, policy makers and others.

Despite those pressures, Frank tries to make time every year to spend just a bit of time doing the simplest of tasks: stuffing brand-new school supplies into a brand-new backpack that will go a Poudre School District student who might not otherwise be able to afford the tools necessary to succeed in school. The annual exercise is called School is Cool, a program conceived in 1992 by CSU employees who noticed that many PSD students were starting school without the tools – pencils, pens, paper, calculators, etc. – necessary to succeed.

“School is Cool is one my favorite CSU programs – it sends a strong message about how much our faculty and staff care about education at all levels,” Frank said following his annual shift on the assembly line-like process that has filled thousands of backpacks over the years. “It’s a true grass-roots effort that pulls together the entire CSU community – and we owe a special thanks to the incredible group of core volunteers who devote countless hours to make sure all the young learners in our community are well-equipped for the coming school year.”

Humble beginnings

That first year, 62 backpacks were filled in a garage by the program’s founders and then distributed to PSD schools, which identified students needing assistance. All of the funding was provided by CSU employees.

Now, 24 years later, CSU employees still provide much of the funding but the program has gained support from corporate sponsors like the CSU Bookstore, Bohemian Foundation, Hewlett-Packard and Costco. As a result, more than 2,500 backpacks were filled Wednesday and will be distributed Thursday to PSD elementary, middle and high schools.

From its humble beginnings, the award-winning program has now helped more than 37,000 area kids get their school year started on equal footing with their peers. More than 200 volunteers from across campus and around the area gather each August to stuff and deliver backpacks.

“This is such a great example of how the Colorado State community comes together to support the greater community,” said Sara Colorosa, who has been a member of the School is Cool executive committee for 10 years. “The volunteers who come year after year to help fill the backpacks and deliver them, plus all of our donors, truly make this program. It can’t be done without them, and the young students in this community benefit from their dedication.”

School is Cool donations are accepted year-round and can be made online.