What all started 6 years ago as a piece of the “Back to school Community Classic” has now taken a life of its own.
The back to school backpack drive spearheaded by the Wealth club recently distributed 1000 backpacks across the capital region for families in need.
“The back pack pack drive was created 6 years again as part of a much larger effort called the “Back to School Classic and Community Day”. It is a 2 day event created by myself and my friend James Thomas a Former NBA Basketball player through our organizations Save Our Streets and The James D Thomas Jr Foundation. We created the event because as kids we always had the Tuesday in the park event in Central Park and we could see how our community much needed an opportunity to come together annually for something special. Our neighborhoods were being ripped apart by violence and we wanted to inspire change through community building.” William Rivas
Once again focusing on Schenectady out of the COCOA house, the Wealth Club, an economic development group of black men packaged 1000 backpacks and gave them out to families in need.
William Rivas, Director of COCOA house and owner of Save our Streets Inc, vanguards of this mission to deliver students with necessary components for this coming school year.
Beginning in early September, William and his wife Shanta conducted their annual back to school Walmart run where they proceeded to ” shut down” Walmart. They acquired and purchased a thousand backpacks along with school supplies to supplement their annual mission.
The goal, to assist a community stricken with economic troubles by any means necessary.
“While in most communities a backpack drive may not seem like much, in a community ravaged by years of poverty and disproportionate economic standards a backpack drive brings about hope, light and a chance to interact. Living in the midst of a pandemic we have been blessed through our efforts to continuously provide much needed supplies and food to communities in poverty.” William Rivas.
Later that week, Will, his wife, along with Assemblymen Santabarbra and a few other constituents prepared the backpacks for the giveaway that began on Friday, September 4th, 2020.
when asked about his presence at the drive as well as assembling the backpacks, Will mentioned that it was imperative for political representation to be visible during this time. Also, Will mentioned the importance of our community learning about the political process. Along with Santabarbara, councilwoman Carmel Patrick, and county legislature Richard Russo assisted in the backpack assembly and giveaway.
The group of roughly 6-7 people worked diligently to package each backpack over the course of a day and a half.
Over the course of the next week, The organization successfully distributed the backpacks throughout Schenectady as well as Albany and Troy.
When Asking Will about the significance of the backpack drive in regards to the education system in this region Will spoke out about the apparent lack of drive for proper education in the capital area.
” Our youth are not receiving a quality education and it is even more apparent that in nature that is part of social conditioning and systemic oppression of a people.”
Rivas also dropped a gem about the “power of community” which is evident within this backpack drive.
” I also believe that is where the power of the community comes to play. Through community efforts, we have the opportunity to provide our youth with the missing links to true education. It has been proven on several occasions that school districts surrounding Schenectady such as Niskayuna, Scotia, Rotterdam all receive more funding and the quality of the education received is of a much higher standard.”
This statement comes only days after the budget for Schenectady city schools was revealed to be cut massively, roughly 20 million dollars according to the Daily Gazette.
Will also seeks to implement his own curriculum outside of the school district to supplement the lack of education in the area that is being provided due to the current pandemic. These courses included subjects surrounding Financial Literacy, Basic Business Elements, Coding, Life skills. And Trades.