When schools moved from in-person to distance learning last spring, San Francisco high school students Susanna and Lana found the transition a bit daunting. After all, school was where they could find a quiet place to study and access to computers to finish projects. When distance learning began, all of those resources went away. If they were having problems just trying to find a quiet study space, they thought, other kids must be having problems transitioning to distance learning too. That’s when they decided to start SupplyHopeInfo—an effort to get school supplies to kids who need them most.
We had a chance to e-interview Susanna and Lana. Check out what they had to say about HopeSupplyInfo.
Question: What inspired you to form SupplyHopeInfo?
Susanna: It was in March when SFUSD announced its shift to distance learning. As a low-income student myself, I understood that families wouldn’t be able to prioritize buying school supplies when there were other needs to meet, including putting food on the table, paying rent, keeping up with bills, and so much more. I’ve had to rely on school resources myself and continue to do so—learning from my own experiences, I decided to start SupplyHopeInfo with Lana to help my fellow classmates in similar situations.
Question: Who are you supporting, why, and how are these recipients receiving their supplies?
Lana: We’re supporting low-income students, because they’re the ones most affected during this pandemic. Many low-income families rely on school resources and no longer have access to them. A lot of parents aren’t getting a steady income, and it’s difficult to support their children academically when they’re focusing on other issues, such as their health and purchasing food. I’m also a low-income student and I understand the challenges that come with it. I wanted to use SHI as a platform to help the low-income community, as I know that even the smallest amount of support can make a significant difference.
These recipients are receiving their supplies directly to their doorstep. SHI ships supplies to families to ensure that everything is contactless, helping to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Question: Which items are students most in need of? Have you seen a shift in needs since classes started moving online?
Lana: The pandemic and shift to distance learning happened very suddenly, so honestly, any type of school supplies are in need right now. SHI provides basic items like pencils, erasers, notebooks, colored pencils, and sharpeners. SHI is also currently receiving donations from individuals and organizations, allowing us to provide laptops and prep books to students. Before the pandemic, students didn’t really need much since schools and back-to-school fairs provided free supplies. However, students no longer have access to these resources, so they lack the most basic but essential supplies needed for academic success.
Question: What’s been the most challenging part of this project?
Lana: In the beginning, we struggled to find people who needed supplies. It was hard for us to reach students outside of our circle, so we decided to contact an organization who works with low-income families to broaden our audience. We now have more than a thousand families waiting for supplies, and SHI hopes to fulfill all of these requests in addition to some outside of the Bay Area.
Susanna: In the beginning, SupplyHopeInfo didn’t receive much attention and that made it harder for organizations to find out about us and for the public to donate funds for us to help students. Soon, we started to gain momentum and now, we’ve helped five hundred students and we’re hoping to be able to help more than a thousand students all around California.
Question: How do you balance schoolwork and the needs of HopeSupplyInfo?
Susanna: I balance the needs of SupplyHopeInfo and my schoolwork by adapting to a schedule and practicing good time management. That could be waking up earlier in the morning or setting aside some time to focus on SupplyHopeInfo and switching to schoolwork afterwards.
Lana: We started SHI in the spring semester of our school year, so it wasn’t too hectic. I only needed to study for my AP exams and my school workload wasn’t heavy, as my classes were simply reviewing for these exams. I’ve always been good with time management and prioritizing what needs to be done. I also think being able to delegate work is important. Each SHI member has a specific role, which spreads out the workload and helps SHI become more efficient. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without my amazing team—they are a part of SHI as much as I am.
Question: If you could share a piece of advice or inspiration with fellow students/kids, what would it be?
Lana: Throughout my life, I had limited opportunities because of my socioeconomic status, and my parents didn’t always support what I was doing. I grew up with all the odds against me—at least that’s what it felt like. However, I knew that if something was important to me, it didn’t really matter if people weren’t on my side (as long as I wasn’t harming anyone, of course). As a result, I developed a go-getter personality; if I wanted something, I would do everything to not only achieve it but also excel in it. It took a while, but I’ve come to accept that things aren’t going to change if I dwell on them. They’re only going to change if I do something about it. For anyone going through difficulties, I hope you’re safe and one day achieve the happiness you’ve always dreamed of.
Susanna: I would say that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes, school and managing other activities can be overwhelming and stressful, but I always try to remember that my work pays off and it’s so rewarding when I look back at what I’ve done.