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The student news site of California State University - Los Angeles

University Times

The student news site of California State University - Los Angeles

University Times

From university to elementary: Golden Eagles give back with a school supply drive

City+Terrace+Elementary+School+Principal+Elaine+Hu+shows+some+of+the+supplies+she+recived+from+the+university.+%28Photo+Courtesy+of+Cal+State+LA+Library+Instagram%29+
City Terrace Elementary School Principal Elaine Hu shows some of the supplies she recived from the university. (Photo Courtesy of Cal State LA Library Instagram)

Spiral bound notebooks, pencil sharpeners, erasers and vibrant-colored markers are just a few of the reasons Kelsey Brown looked forward to the end of summer break as a kid and back-to-school shopping was in season. Now, further down the line in her own education and working at Cal State LA, she hopes to spark that same excitement in local elementary schools.

Brown is the communications strategist and event coordinator for the university’s library. When she came up with the idea to put together a school supply donation drive last year, students, faculty and Greek organizations on campus were eager to jump on board to help, collecting enough supplies to fill four large Ross tote bags, which were donated in December, according to Brown. After two semesters of collecting materials, and a quick Google search for neighboring schools, she decided on City Terrace Elementary School, a LAUSD campus less than half a mile from Cal State LA. 

“I think it’s so important to invest your time, energy and efforts as locally as you can,” Brown said. “When you do, I feel that that good karma and those good vibes just continue to circle in the community. It was kind of a test run, and I hope that the success of it can allow us to do it again in the future.”

To Brown’s surprise, she came to find that Principal Elaine Hu, whom she was donating to, is a Golden Eagle herself, graduating from Cal State LA with a Bachelor’s Degree in child development with a minor in psychology, and two Master’s Degrees in bilingual multicultural education and in educational leadership. 

“That was a bonus in my opinion,” Brown said.

Hu was grateful to get her hands on additional supplies that she says will be put to use.

“It’s going to go to some of our kiddos who really need it,” Hu said. “Some families may not be able to provide some of the supplies [to their kids].”

As an educator who is a first-generation immigrant, Hu has withstood obstacles like language barriers to reach her level of education. She shared some of her experiences with audience members when she spoke at Cal State LA’s 75th anniversary in 2022. With deep roots to the university, Hu’s glad to still be involved in the Cal State LA community.

“As an alum from Cal State LA, I’m keeping a close relationship with the Charter College of Education,” said Hu, who taught a bilingual authorization course in Mandarin at the university last semester. “I’ve always said, ‘We’re baby Eagles here [at City Terrace Elementary],’ so I really appreciate the collaboration and support, and I’m looking forward to continuing with the collaboration.”

Although donating school supplies might not seem like the most remarkable service, it matters to those in the classroom. Like Hu admitted to doing herself, it isn’t uncommon for teachers to spend their own money on classroom supplies.

Brown’s best friend and cousin are both teachers and her mom is a former preschool teacher. Based on her discussions with them, she knew that school supplies never go out of demand. 

“There’s always a need for them,” Brown said. “They are always talking about not having enough supplies for everyone or having to spend their own money to get supplies for students.”

More than 92% of classrooms have students whose families cannot afford any school supplies for their kids, which often leads to teachers dipping into their own pockets, according to AdoptAClassroom, a nonprofit that funds classrooms nationally.

Like many other schools in Los Angeles, City Terrace Elementary has a page on Donors Choose, a teacher-founded online charity nonprofit that allows people to donate directly to public school classrooms. When asked, Hu explained that the page was run by individual teachers rather than the school itself, therefore she could not speak to how it operates. The school has raised $75,164 so far, which has funded 124 projects, according to the page. The 773 donors who’ve given to City Terrace Elementary come from both in and out of state contributors.

Brown said that she hopes to keep the momentum going by getting other groups involved and to collect and donate supplies annually. 

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About the Contributor
Marcos Franco, Managing Editor
Marcos is a journalism major who focuses on news coverage of underreported people, communities and nonprofits on the Eastside and South L.A. He also has experience in entertainment reporting and freelances for local news outlets.
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