Vancouver Community Outfits Students for Back to School

With school just around the corner many families in Clark County are busy getting supplies, picking out backpacks and sharpening pencils. But many Vancouver families are struggling with these extra expenses. For the Vancouver families that cannot afford back to school shopping there is hope. Many businesses have joined forces with Vancouver Public Schools to get school supplies to families in need.

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Justine Ward coordinates a school supply drive with her Renaissance coworkers. The school supplies benefit students in Vancouver Public Schools. Photo credit: Michelle Bader

More than 50% of children attending Vancouver Public Schools qualify for free or reduced lunch plans. Additionally, 920 families do not have homes. The Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools helps students with their basic needs such as clothing, food and even athletic fees so they can participate in sports at their school.

Three years ago, Justine Ward of Renaissance partnered with Vancouver Public Schools and the Write from the Start school supply drive to raise money and collect school supply donations.

Renaissance is an educational company that develops assessment software. With this connection to education, Renaissance is very passionate about this cause. The mission of Renaissance is “accelerated learning for all.” In addition Renaissance strives to “empower every teacher to overcome unique challenges.”

Being a teacher, I know how important both the mission and the goal of Renaissance are to Vancouver families.

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Gathering school supplies in advance of the start of school sets kids off on the best start for the school year. Photo courtesy: Michelle Cone

To coordinate the school supply drive, Vancouver Public Schools delivers bins and supply lists to Renaissance. Justine is the coordinator for this drive and her passion and love for her community shines through. “Kids in our backyards don’t have access to the supplies and things they need. It’s just hard to think of them not having enough food and not the basic supplies to go to school,” says Justine who plans to continue the school supply drive annually.

Renaissance employees and coworkers in other offices in the same building contribute to the school supply drive. EmPress Healthcare Management, the business located just upstairs from Renaissance, has also partnered to collect school supplies. Justine also takes donations and uses the money to shop for school supplies.

This year Renaissance delivered supplies to Eisenhower Elementary School. Employees from Renaissance and EmPress attended the event to help all students start off on an equal field.

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Justine Ward has coordinated Renaissance’s school supply drive for three years. Pictured here is their contributions from 2015. Photo courtesy: Alishia Topper

When asked what the most rewarding part of volunteering is, Justine replied, “I am such an advocate of education and it has made such a difference in my life that it opens up so many avenues for kids. To me it is rewarding to think that we are making a difference in the community. I hope this may push kids even further, keep them in school and give kids that extra boost of confidence.”

This drive is truly making an impact on the community. “Thank you to Renaissance, and many other local businesses, organizations and individuals, who contributed over five tons of supplies this year. Because of their generosity, we are able to help more than 1,500 students who otherwise would not have the supplies they need to start the school year,” said Jan Redding, Director of Public Engagement for Vancouver Public Schools who also credits title sponsor Dick Hannah Dealerships and community sponsor Columbia Credit Union.

Ready to contribute and bring smiles to the faces of Vancouver Public School students? Financial contributions are accepted year round at

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