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The growth, success and challenges of Crayons to Calculators

This year Crayons to Calculators BVSD will equip over 5,000 Boulder Valley public school students living in or near poverty with backpacks full of essential school supplies. Established in 2005, Crayons to Calculators began as a collaborative partnership of Boulder County nonprofits working to ensure every student had access to the tools they needed for a strong start to the academic year. 

Now in its eighteenth year, the program has served over 130,000 students in Boulder Valley School District and St. Vrain Valley School District. 

When families face difficult financial decisions or tradeoffs, such as buying groceries or school supplies, it can impact a student’s success in the classroom and in life. Ensuring every student has access to school supplies helps create equitable classrooms across all grade-levels.

The beginning of Crayons to Calculators

Crayons to Calculators started in 2005 as the first collaborative school supply drive in Boulder County, serving 2,432 students. Loose school supplies were collected from businesses and individuals across the county and volunteers helped sort and organize the supplies for each school.

The founding organizations were:

Businesses and individuals came together to serve over 50 Boulder Valley public schools and direct service organizations in Boulder, Broomfield and Gilpin counties, including I Have a Dream, Sister Carmen and the Family Learning Center.

Crayons to Calculators was created to ease the financial burden of struggling families in our community. We never imagined it would grow into such a strong and collaborative program, and are grateful to everyone who has supported BVSD students by supporting Crayons to Calculators.

Laurie Hanson, founding partner of Crayons to Calculators

In 2006 three new partners joined the program – Sister Carmen Community Center, Family Learning Center, and Foothills United Way – and collections were expanded to provide backpacks to each student with their school supplies. The following year the Corporate Challenge was started with 22 companies generating support for BVSD students among their employees.

The initial success of Crayons to Calculators was in large part due to generous organizations and community groups, which includes:

Expanding the reach of the program

In 2008, with the generous support of our title sponsor Western Disposal Services, Crayons to Calculators expanded its reach and range to include students in both the Boulder Valley School District and the St. Vrain Valley School District. 

Their annual “Trash Bash” event raised over $100,000 to support the expansion of the program and a new partnership with the St. Vrain Valley Schools Education Foundation. Thanks to Western Disposal Services, over 4,800 students across the two school districts were provided backpacks filled with school supplies for the 2008-09 school year.

Crayons to Calculators continued to grow over the next decade, improving the quality of services, maximizing financial resources, and streamlining administrative and fundraising processes. This included expanding corporate and community partnerships to address the unmet and growing needs of our districts. 

The COVID-19 pandemic changes distribution

After fifteen years of serving the community, the Crayons to Calculators program model shifted in 2020 in response to health precautions in place from the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than collect, organize and distribute materials through community volunteers, wholesale supply kits and backpacks were picked up by families across both districts.

While we missed involving volunteers and community members in the collection and organization of supplies, the efficiency and cost of the wholesale model allowed us to stretch our resources further and best serve our students. In 2021 and 2022, Crayons to Calculators provided nearly 20,000 students with backpacks, school supplies and headphones.

Better serving our districts

When the program first started, collaborating with other non-profits and crossing district lines allowed us to more efficiently meet the needs of students. As the needs of school districts and communities evolved we realized we could best serve Boulder Valley and St. Vrain students and families by focusing on the districts individually. 

The core of Crayons to Calculators remains – increasing equity in our classrooms by providing students with tools they need to succeed. 

For the upcoming 2023-24 school year, both districts will still run a Crayons to Calculators school supply distribution, but they will be run independently: Crayons to Calculators BVSD and Crayons to Calculators St. Vrain Valley.

Through the leadership of Impact on Education and dedicated individuals and organizations in our community, Crayons to Calculators has impacted over 133,000 students since its inception in 2005.

The community challenge

We launched our first Community Challenge in 2021 as a way to continue engaging individuals, community groups and local businesses in the program in a fun and engaging way. 

We’re excited to launch a new and improved Community Challenge in support of Crayons to Calculators BVSD next month. Stay tuned for details!

BEFORE YOU GO …

Impact on Education is a nonprofit organization, and we depend on our community to help us put our mission into action. We need your help to to provide opportunity and resources to 29,000 students and 4,000 educators in the Boulder Valley School District.

8,000 students provided with essential school supplies

Preschoolers returned to classrooms today, which means every school across Boulder Valley School District is filled with students, educators and staff eagerly anticipating the school year ahead.

Helping families in need

An important first step to the school year is ensuring every student starts the year with the supplies they need to be successful. In partnership with the St. Vrain Valley Schools Foundation and our Title Sponsor, Western Disposal Services, we helped over 8,000 students facing financial hardship through our Crayons to Calculators school supply distribution. Students across the Boulder Valley School District and St. Vrain Valley School District received grade-level appropriate school supplies, backpacks and headphones.

Ensuring every student has access to school supplies creates equitable classrooms across all grade-levels.

Our community stepped in to help

We’re pleased to share that our Crayons to Calculators Community Challenge exceeded its goal of raising 10% of the $250,000 program cost. Many local organizations worked hard to gather donations and thanks to these supporters and our program sponsors, we’re proud to support a strong start to the year for all students.

There’s still time to support back-to-school! You can make a gift toward our Community Challenge fundraiser through September 7.


BEFORE YOU GO …

Impact on Education is a nonprofit organization, and we depend on our community to help us put our mission into action. We need your help to to provide opportunity and resources to 30,000 students and 4,000 educators of the Boulder Valley School District.

We’re challenging the BVSD community to raise $25,000 for back-to-school supplies

We work all year to provide opportunities for BVSD students, but an important first step is ensuring every student starts the school year with the supplies they need for a strong and successful academic year.

89% of parents & guardians expect rising prices to impact their back-to-school shopping plans.

Numerator

Especially right now as inflation hits its highest level in four decades, times are tight for families and we know that many will struggle with back-to-school expenses for their children this fall. Our community is also seeing the harsh reality of the Marshall Fire affecting local families who have a greater need for financial support than they have during previous school years.

Why school supplies are so important

In addition to families affected by the fire, there are over 8,000 local students living in or near poverty who often go without essential school supplies. When families face difficult financial decisions or tradeoffs, such as buying groceries or school supplies, it can impact a student’s success in the classroom and in life. Ensuring every student has access to school supplies creates equitable classrooms across all grade-levels.

To a student in need, a backpack filled with school supplies is so much more than a backpack; it’s a powerful toolbox that bolsters self-esteem and unleashes confidence.

How we provide school supplies to students in need

Our annual school supply distribution, Crayons to Calculators, provides age-appropriate school supplies, headphones, and a new backpack to over 8,000 students facing financial hardship in the Boulder Valley School District and the St. Vrain Valley School District.

In partnership with the St. Vrain Valley Schools Education Foundation, our Title Sponsor Western Disposal Services, and our other generous sponsors, we fund this $250,000 program to ensure each student will head back to school with the tools they need to succeed.

Our challenge to the community

The Crayons to Calculators Community Challenge encourages individuals and organizations to host mini-fundraising campaigns to raise $25,000, or 10% of the total program cost.

The challenge is a fun way to bring organizations and networks together in support of a common goal: supporting local students and equitable classrooms. The challenge lasts for four weeks, and we provide resources and tips for fun activities that encourage individual and team participation.

Helping BVSD students see all colors of the world

Students in the Boulder Valley School District deserve to know they belong, especially in school. One simple, yet powerful, way to achieve that is giving them art supplies that represent a range of skin tones. 

We are proud to partner with NAACP Boulder County to provide multicultural art supplies to BVSD classrooms so students can more accurately reflect themselves and others in their art and other work.

“All children deserve the ability to draw themselves in true form and that includes skin tone color. These art supplies make that vision become a reality which is priceless.”

Michelle Willingham
DEI Collab Group Leader, NAACP Boulder Chapter EDU Committee

Impact on Education funding will provide Crayola Colors of the World supply kits and workbooks to every elementary classroom in the next two weeks.

All of BVSD’s 31 elementary schools will receive Crayola Colors of the World art supplies and activity books for each of their classrooms. Each pack of crayons, markers and colored pencils contains 24 specifically-formulated colors representing people of the world. The subtle shades inside are formulated to better represent the growing diversity worldwide 

We’re also working to provide age-appropriate books to each classroom to promote healthy conversations around racial diversity and providing additional Crayola Colors of the World supplies to middle schools across the district in the fall.

BEFORE YOU GO

Impact on Education is an independent non-profit supporting the Boulder Valley School District. We depend on the support of our community to put our mission into action. Will you help us provide opportunities and resources to marginalized students across the Boulder Valley School District?

Impact on Education is a nonprofit organization, and we depend on our community to help us put our mission into action. We support Boulder Valley public school students with community funding and resources in order to meet critical needs and eliminate opportunity gaps. Your support keeps us going strong and your donation will help us equalize opportunity, bolster academic success for local students.

Local community donates over 200 musical instruments to BVSD students

Of the many things lost in the Marshall Fire, musical instruments can be difficult and expensive to replace. Since the fire broke out, we’ve been working closely with Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) to help replace these instruments. 

An outpouring of support

Over 100 instruments that were lost in the fire have been replaced, and there are an additional 100 now in the BVSD inventory for students who need assistance getting one in the future. Over 50 individuals kindly donated their personal instruments, while:

Funding repairs and cleaning

Thanks to the community’s generous donations to our Marshall Fire fund, we directed dollars to ensure these donated instruments could be put to use. Impact on Education paid for shipping costs, instrument repair and professional cleaning, which met an immediate need and helped BVSD quickly provide instruments to students impacted by the fire.

Because our community came together to help, we’ve been able to stretch our dollars further and fund other urgent needs.

A small, but meaningful way to support recovery

Having a community willing to contribute really helped to reduce stress for our students and families about how to replace their instruments.

“My best hope is that these efforts enabled our students to get back to making music,” says Aubrey Yeh, Coordinator of Language Arts & Humanities with BVSD. “It was one less thing for families to worry about.”

She says students found handwritten notes inside instrument cases, sharing thoughtful messages of hope with some of the recipients. A few of the instruments were family heirlooms, having been passed through generations, and are now being passed to a new family.


BEFORE YOU GO

Impact on Education is an independent non-profit supporting the Boulder Valley School District. We depend on the support of our community to put our mission into action. Will you help us provide opportunities and resources to marginalized students across the Boulder Valley School District?

Impact on Education is a nonprofit organization, and we depend on our community to help us put our mission into action. The size and scope of rebuilding our community in the wake of a pandemic, a mass shooting and Colorado’s most devastating wildfire is overwhelming. Providing access to mental health resources is critically important as our community recovers. We need your help to provide mental health support today.

Students and educators are excited to return to classrooms this week, and we’re proud to help ensure every student is equipped for success.

Students across our community have come to rely on Crayons to Calculators to provide a positive start to their school year, and 2021 was no exception.

This year was one of the most critical for the Crayons to Calculators program as more families found themselves needing assistance due to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. For health and safety reasons, we ran a modified program again this year, collecting monetary donations to purchase backpacks and supply kits, instead of having items donated and assembled by volunteers. Our partners at BVSD and SVVSD handled the logistics and ensured that each of more than 100 schools received backpacks and supplies for every student in their building facing financial hardship. 

We exceeded our Community Challenge goal of raising $25,000 and together with our Title Sponsor Western Disposal we collectively raised $250,000 to purchase and distribute school supplies to the students who need them most. We’re so proud of this and your dedication to our community.

Thank you for helping us provide school supplies to over 11,000 students in two school districts. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Crayons to Calculators is a $250,000 program, generously sponsored by Western Disposal Services and other community partners, that provides backpacks and grade-level appropriate school supplies to over 11,000 low-income students in the Boulder Valley School District and St. Vrain Valley School District.

Traditionally, the program operates as a community-wide school supply drive, with community members collecting school supplies or volunteering to assemble backpacks.

While we love that element of the program, health and safety are our top priorities, so we’re purchasing pre-packaged supply kits and backpacks that will be distributed to students directly through their school.

Allison Billings, Executive Director of Impact on Education

How to help

The Crayons to Calculators Community Challenge encourages local organizations and individuals to build fundraising teams and raise $25,000 to support local families. With the modified program, financial contributions are critically important this year. We meet families every year who tell us how much this program helps them. While it’s hard to predict how the next school year will unfold, we know one thing will remain the same: our students are counting on us.

Google has offered to match any gifts made to Crayons to Calculators through July 30, up to $10,000, a generous challenge gift that will help reach the $25,000 goal.

Individuals and organizations are invited to lead fundraising teams in the Crayons to Calculators Community Challenge, inviting their friends, colleagues, family and community members to support local students.

Questions about the community challenge?

Anyone interested in joining the challenge or making a donation can register online or email darcy@impactoneducation.org for more information.

Crayons to Calculators is a multi-district school supply distribution managed through a collaborative partnership with the St. Vrain Valley Schools Education Foundation.

Our longstanding Crayons to Calculators program, generously supported by Western Disposal, needs your help to ensure that 11,000 Boulder Valley and St. Vrain Valley students pre-K through 12th grade start school in August well-equipped for success! This year, maybe more than any other, students will need our assistance, and Crayons to Calculators is ready for the challenge: 

In order to align with Boulder County Public Health guidelines, we are securing and pre-packaging all of the needed supplies recommended by BVSD and SVVSD, through a wholesale supplier and delivering them directly to the school districts for distribution to students in need. This program adaptation will serve as a safety measure while still fulfilling the need for every single student to return to learning in August feeling prepared and confident. 

What does this mean for community participation? It means we need community members, who share our commitment to education for all students, to make a gift on behalf of this imperative program. Since we are unable to incorporate two typical elements of this program, volunteer assistance and donated supplies, in 2020, we need to raise more funds from individuals and businesses.

This year, we’re excited to share that our friends at Google have pledged to match all donations made by June 30th up to $10,000. Crayons to Calculators has never depended more on community, individual, and corporate donations. Will you help us raise $20,000 for school supplies by then? 

So, as we head into the heat of summer, we know that with your help, Crayons to Calculators and its title sponsor Western Disposal along with partners Impact on Education and Education Foundation for the St. Vrain Valley will be able to meet students’ needs and help them start the school year ready to set new and higher goals! 

Donate here

Sponsorship opportunities are still available. Please reach out to darcy@impactoneducation.org if your business is interested in supporting this essential program or sharing information on our behalf. 

Our long-running Crayons to Calculators program, sponsored by Western Disposal, is a heavy lift each summer. Before school starts each August, we provide school supplies to 11,000 students in need across the Boulder Valley School District and St. Vrain Valley School District with the help of hundreds of volunteers logging thousands of hours and dozens of supply drives across the county collecting donated materials on our behalf. This year, being mindful of public health guidelines and with the safety of our students top of mind, we are revamping the program while still ensuring that all students receive the supplies they need, but this is going to require a LOT of help from our community.

Our Crayons to Calculators program must adapt significantly because we are simply unable to gather hundreds of volunteers in a school building or to safely assemble and distribute backpacks filled with school supplies recommended for students Pre-K through high school.  

Some needed changes

While we annually call on the community to donate supplies to be collected for backpack assembly, and while we are the beneficiary of over $250,000 in donated supplies each year, we simply can’t expect this summer to be business as usual.

In the interest of public health, using only community financial contributions, we plan to purchase school supply kits scaled to grade level from a wholesale provider.  These kits will take into account the unique needs of each school district as well as a possible need for at-home learning during the 2020-21 school year. Kits will be distributed by BVSD and SVVSD in a safe and socially distant manner. Students and families will still be able to begin the school year ready for success whether they are attending school at-home, within the school building, or a combination of both. But, this approach requires far more funding than we’ve raised in the past.

That’s why we are particularly grateful for Western Disposal’s longstanding sponsorship of Crayons to Calculators: For over a decade, this local company, which values and strives to take care of its local communities, has supported our Crayons to Calculators program, knowing that if students start school feeling ready for success, equipped with the tools needed for success, the year begins positively, and achievement and growth can more effectively develop. We count on Western Disposal as a partner, and they continue to strengthen this collaboration.

We also rely on our partners at the Education Foundation for the St Vrain Valley to coordinate this program within SVVSD.

With these two key partners firmly committed, we are turning our attention to bringing on other partners – businesses, individuals, foundations and others who also recognize the importance of local students being equipped with the tools they need to learn effectively. We realize that, due to economic conditions, we are likely to see more students and families unable to shoulder the cost of purchasing school supplies this year, and we need to prepare accordingly. 

How to help

Without volunteer opportunities or supply drives this year, there are two ways you can help:

Click here for more information about how to get started in supporting this critical program for our community and join us in our mission to prepare every student to return to learning this fall. 

Donate now to support Crayons to Calculators. 

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Impact on Education
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