By Mark Rountree
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Eight-five percent of students enrolled in Ripley Public Schools qualify for free and reduced meals, and many of them come from families who cannot afford school supplies.
But that is no longer an issue for children attending the rural Payne County school.
Steven Blaylock, manager of Sirloin Stockade in Stillwater, organized an effort to provide prekindergarten through sixth-grade students with 250 backpacks stuffed with school supplies. Crosspointe Church in Stillwater purchased another 40 backpacks stocked with supplies for the children.
The backpacks are filled with about $1,000 worth of donated pencils, paper, crayons and all the supplies students will need for next year. Students will receive their backpacks on enrollment night next summer. Until then, the backpacks and supplies will be stored. This school year, students are using backpacks donated by Regal Motors of Stillwater and Crosspointe Church.
Students and teachers took a break Friday to look over the backpacks and supplies while attending a school luncheon put on by several donors.
The donation effort is fast becoming a tradition at Ripley, following a backpack fundraiser started last year by Susan Henderson, president of the Ripley Board of Education, to alleviate the financial burden on parents and teachers, who often purchased supplies for their students.
“When I was a kid, we didn’t have much,” Blaylock said. “I grew up in a poor town, a poor family. But I was always told that you might not be able to save the world, but one person can always make a difference. I have recruited a large amount of people, and they have all made a huge difference.”
Blaylock said he became aware of Ripley’s plight when one of his waitresses, who was also a substitute teacher at Ripley, informed him that many students at the school were from families who could not afford necessary school supplies.
“That kind of touched me, and that’s why I chose this school,” Blaylock said. “I can definitely see this expanding. I started out with 15 backpacks and some school supplies, and now we’re up to this.”
Jesse McIntyre is a senior at Ripley High School. His sister, Macayla, is a sixth-grade student at the school and was a recipient of a backpack and school supplies this year.
“Sometimes the kids don’t have the financial means to buy things like that,” McIntyre said. “So when someone hands them a new backpack and new school supplies, they feel really good about that. Having that new stuff, it just brightens up their day, brightens up their school year, and makes it a good experience to come to school and learn. ... No matter what financial status you are in, you can always practice philanthropy.”
Lisa Pitts, principal of prekindergarten through sixth grade at Ripley Public Schools, said students take pride in their donated supplies.
“If it is nothing else, it’s a confidence booster,” Pitts said. “Kids that have that backpack come to school and are prepared, they are so excited about everything that is in there. It is a self-esteem booster for them. They feel ready to learn and they have everything they need to learn.”