Blessings in a Backpack | Apr. 2, 2013 | Spotlight

Cal State L.A. delivers backpacks of ‘blessings’ to 1,000+ children

Faculty, students partner with Normandie Elementary on community service project

Video interviews:

CSULA fraternity and Normandie schoolchildren.

More than 1,000 elementary children took home backpacks of goodies to enjoy during their spring break last week, due in part to the efforts of two Cal State L.A. anthropology classes.

CSULA’s part-time lecturer Jessica Bodoh-Creed, who taught Anthropology 310 and 338 last winter, inspired her students to collect toys, books and food to donate to children at Normandie Avenue Elementary School in South Central Los Angeles. The class project was organized in collaboration with the organization Blessings in a Backpack.

Blessings in a Backpack, which is already in place at Normandie, aims to ensure impoverished elementary school children are fed on the weekends throughout the school year. Better test scores, improved reading skills, positive behavior, improved health and increased attendance have all been attributed to the success of this program.

Research indicates that majority of the students at Normandie is on free and/or reduced meal programs.

Bodoh-Creed organized this community service opportunity to engender a sense of purpose and empathy among her students. The focus is also to provide the students an understanding of cultures, ideas and reasoning.

“I want my students to understand that every small gift or contribution that they give can make a large impact in the end,” she said. “Together, working on campus and outside in the community can bring a lot to their lives and everyone else’s.”

Bodah-Creed believes that CSULA students are smart and hardworking, and when given the chance, are willing to assist their community.

“Many students reached out far and wide, and even organized their own efforts within their circle of family, friends, and co-workers to collect donations,” she said. “I have a student, Anthony Rosas, who motivated the Phi Pi Alpha fire fraternity on campus to join our effort. This has really become a movement within my students, and I am very proud of their work inside and outside of the classroom.”

CSULA fraternity and Normandie schoolchildren.

On March 14, members of CSULA’s Phi Pi Alpha joined Bodoh-Creed in delivering more than 20 boxes filled with donated items.

They were all greeted with gratitude by Normandie Elementary school principal Gustavo Ortiz, and Los Angeles Unified School District outreach coordinator Cassandra Robinson.

Student council representatives, members of a Girl Scout Troop and a class of kindergarteners all came out with smiles beaming with appreciation.

A little girl gently walked up to the boxes and asked, “Is this all for us?”

Rosas, a fire protection administration major, was honored to witness the joy on this girl’s face and to interact with others benefitting from the donations.

“After all this work collecting and fundraising, and now to see and actually meet the kids,” said Rosas, “there are not words that describe the feeling of fulfillment this opportunity has given me.”

News coverage:

Links of interest: