Much has changed over the course of the past 25 years in Fort Collins.
The population has almost doubled, growing from 87,000 in 1992 to the current 158,000. The Anheuser-Busch brewery north of the city was just three years old, and New Belgium Brewery was located in a basement. And current CSU President Tony Frank was still two years from arriving on campus and 17 years from being named the university’s 14th president.
Founded and funded by CSU employees
One thing that has not changed: The need to give a growing number of Fort Collins kids a fresh start – new backpacks and supplies – at the beginning of each school year. And since 1991, School is Cool has been providing that much-needed boost to less-fortunate kids in Poudre School District.
“My own boys were at Tavelli Elementary at the time, and that’s where I became aware that some students don’t have the backpacks and supplies they need to be successful students,” said School is Cool founder and CSU employee Kathy Phifer. “Students should be able to start the school year on equal footing with their peers, and that wasn’t happening. That’s when CSU – the city’s largest employer committed to quality education – embraced the idea of School Is Cool.”
Donations are needed to fill the growing gap between what is provided and what is needed. You can mark celebrate the 25th anniversary by donating $25 to sponsors one supply-filled backpack. CSU employees can donate in a variety of ways, including payroll deduction.
Meeting growing demands
Started in a garage, School is Cool has evolved into a shining example of the power of many. The greater CSU community – employees, alumni and others – donate their time and money to support a program that has – much like Fort Collins – grown dramatically.
In 1992, School is Cool rounded up enough supplies to fill 66 backpacks. To date, the program has helped nearly 40,000 PSD students, with the goal to fill more than 2,500 backpacks in its 25th year.
“CSU first and foremost is about education, and education starts long before students arrive on our campus,” CSU President Tony Frank said. “Giving kids that start, making sure the playing field is level, is so critical. CSU has always been great about recognizing that, if there’s a need, let’s roll up our sleeves and get started at fixing it.
“This program makes such a difference. It’s just wonderful to see it come full circle when some of those students come to CSU, cross the stage at Moby Arena at graduation and go on to lead lives that will make a difference in our society.”
Frank, a frequent volunteer when it’s time for the three-day process of sorting supplies, stuffing and delivering the backpacks ensues prior to the school year, said he loves the fact that School is Cool was started by employees and is still run and largely funded by employees.
“School is Cool didn’t start in the Administration Building; it was a grassroots initiative and still is,” Frank said. “Employees put in the time and effort to make it work. My being there is a way of saying ‘thank you’ to those individuals who are involved.”
CSU’s Division of External Relations will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of School is Cool from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12 in the Cherokee Park Room at Lory Student Center. All donors and volunteers are invited to join the party.
If you would like to donate a backpack filled with supplies please drop it off at Johnson Hall on the CSU campus on Tuesday, Aug. 9. Monetary donations are accepted year-round.