Sudbury teen organizes drive for school supplies to support students in need

It all started as an assignment in a grade 10 Civics and Careers class at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School. Student Kerry Yang says the class was tasked with finding a world problem and a solution to solve it, but she took it one step further.

“I was looking at education disparities and this is something that’s really prominent in third world countries. I was focusing on countries within Africa and this is when I proposed to hold a school supply drive because a lot of these families there are low income families and they can’t afford the supplies to send their kids to school,” says Yang.

Students in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Lo-Ellen have a Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) requirement.

This is something students don’t receive marks for however, Julie Wuorinen, who is a coordinator with the program says it is an important project to help students build interpersonal skills.

“(Kerry) She really has gone above and beyond. The expectation of the program really is to learn and give back to your community and I feel as though all IB students will do this through CAS in their own unique way, but Kerry really has had an incredible impact and she’s been working on this project for two years and she didn’t have to,” said Wuorinen.

“She’s doing this out of her own good will because she really wants to have a positive impact on youth and you know help them out in the academics anyway that she can.”

In the 2019-2020 school year, Yang collected hundreds of school supplies in Sudbury that were distributed to students in Africa through an organization called Develop Africa.

This year, upon learning about the education gaps in Canada’s territories, rural, remote, and northern communities, and even large cities, she set out the ambitious goal to collect school supplies for over 200 students across the country.

“I saw on social media a mom in Nunavut posted a picture of some pencils, pack of lined paper, erasers, ruler and the total came to about 54 dollars  and that’s things that we can pick up here for five dollars or less,” says Yang.

As the first recipient from Sudbury to have the support of the Rising Youth grant led by TakingITGlobal and the Government of Canada, she says she far exceeded the impact she thought was possible.

“There was over 200 pounds of schools supplies so the impact was definitely a lot bigger this year and I think it’s also maybe due to the fact that we had boxes set up at Marymount Academy because I had a friend over there who was willing to take on the initiative for her school,” said Yang.

“So that’s double the impact. As well as community support, such as the YWCA who donated over 100 backpacks because those are donations they receive but don’t necessarily use as a women’s shelter so really grateful for the community backing.”

As the drive came to a close in March, an astounding 3,000 school supplies were collected that were distributed to 8 recipients in 4 provinces and territories.

Two organizations in Sudbury: NISA and Our Children, Our Future, received 2 boxes each, while communities in the territories: Grise Fiord, Qikiqtarjuaq, and Aklavik received one large box each.

Moorelands Kids in Toronto received another large shipping box and Share the Warmth in Montreal received two large boxes. These school supplies would go towards low-income families, summer camp programs, schools, and all other students in need.

Yang says as she heads into grade 12 this fall she will once again organize a school supply drive, however, she is hoping another student will keep the fundraiser going once she graduates.