by Gina Cetta, Program Director
“Back to School.” Three words that can mean so many different things to children. Some are excited. Some are nervous, while others are scared. Some can even feel anger at the thought of returning for another year. Here at Passaic County CASA, we are excited about the opportunity for growth in the children we serve as they return to school! New teachers, new classmates, new things to learn. It can be an exciting time, filled with possibilities.
One of the many goals that Passaic County CASA has for the children we serve is that they do their best in school. CASA volunteers monitor their child’s progress in school through corresponding regularly with teachers and/or counselors, attending school meetings, and attending Back to School Night whenever possible. Teachers have shared that before CASA’s involvement, some children never had someone attend Back to School Night for them.
To help children in Passaic County start off on the right foot, Passaic County CASA provides them with new backpacks and school supplies. For the past eight years, CASA has held a school supply collection and the Passaic County community is always so generous.
New this year, Passaic County CASA hosted a “School Supply Pop Up Shop” and invited children and their foster or biological parents to come shop for themselves. The children were excited to choose their own backpacks and supplies. Glitter, unicorns, and superheroes were popular themes this year! Passaic County CASA was able to provide backpacks and supplies for more than 400 children in Passaic County for the upcoming school year, in addition to supporting the supply distributions of several partner organizations including the Paterson Task Force, Camp YDP, the Windsor School, and of course the Department of Child Protection and Permanency.
For children who were unable to attend this “Pop-Up Shop,” CASA volunteers spent a busy few weeks in August delivering backpacks full of supplies. CASAs love to share the stories of their delivery of backpacks to their CASA children and how the children’s faces light up with excitement. CASA Melanie is an advocate for 17-year-old Andrew. She had reported difficulty in getting Andrew to speak with her, and when they did talk, he frequently replied with one-word answers. Melanie delivered an Adidas brand backpack and supplies to Andrew. His entire demeanor changed when she gave him the supplies. He was smiling and talkative. He expressed his happiness with getting the backpack he had been wanting and carefully took every item out of the backpack to inspect it. From that moment, Andrew has been much more responsive to his CASA. A new backpack and supplies may not seem like a big deal to some, but to the children we serve, they mean a lot.